NEW YORK -- Adam Ottavino resuscitated his career with help from some high-tech gadgetry last offseason, enduring sweat sessions several times each week in a vacant Harlem storefront. He will now be playing home games some 35 blocks north of that commercial space, under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.The
NEW YORK -- Adam Ottavino resuscitated his career with help from some high-tech gadgetry last offseason, enduring sweat sessions several times each week in a vacant Harlem storefront. He will now be playing home games some 35 blocks north of that commercial space, under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees added another major piece to what promises to be a devastating bullpen on Thursday, finalizing a three-year, $27 million contract with the 33-year-old Ottavino, a product of Park Slope, Brooklyn, who will become the first player in franchise history to wear the uniform No. 0.
"As you can imagine, it's been pretty heavy amount of attention coming my way from people I knew growing up, family and friends," Ottavino said. "It's super exciting. The people close to me know how much it means to me. I felt really good with all of the nice things that people have been reaching out and saying. I just want to go out there and make them proud."
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Ottavino grew up cheering for the Yankees and projects to join Albertin Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder and fellow free-agent signee Zach Britton in what could be the Majors' most intimidating relief crew. Ottavino said that the Yankees were one of the first teams to reach out to him when the free-agency process began.
"It got me excited, but I didn't want to get my hopes up," Ottavino said. "I didn't know where I was going to go. There were a lot of relievers on the market. I tried to keep open-minded, but there was a small spot in my heart that really wanted to be a Yankee the whole time. There were other offers, but this is the type of environment I want to be in and the type of stage I want to pitch on."
Sensing that his career had reached a crossroads after pitching to a 5.06 ERA in 2017, Ottavino refined his mechanics by utilizing high-tech equipment in what had previously been a shoe store. His father-in-law, a real-estate developer, loaned him the space in exchange for a Nolan Arenado-signed bat.
Thanks in large part to gear obtained from companies like Rapsodo and Edgertronic, Ottavino enjoyed a breakout season in 2018 for the Rockies, using newfound knowledge of terms like "spin efficiency," "laminar flow" and "gyroscopic spin" to slice his ERA in half to 2.43.
"I still have my same space," Ottavino said. "The way I developed my practice plan last year was very effective. I just tried to continue what I was doing and build off of it with some small changes to see if I can get a little bit more out of myself. I'm still working on a new pitch; not sure if it'll be game-ready or not this year, but I've been working to expand my arsenal. I'm just trying to take a growth mindset into every day."
Trimming his walk and home run rates, Ottavino posted a 0.99 WHIP and six saves while ringing up 112 strikeouts, which ranked second among National League relievers and fourth in the Majors.
Among NL relievers, Ottavino was fifth with a .158 opponents' batting average (41-for-260), fifth with a 36.2 percent strikeout rate (112 strikeouts against 309 batters faced), tied for fifth in appearances (75) and tied for sixth in innings pitched (77 2/3).
Ottavino's high-velocity heat and video-game slider have given hitters fits, and while speaking on MLB.com's Statcast™ podcast in December, he opined that the greatest slugger of the 20th century would struggle against today's pitching, saying that he "would strike out Babe Ruth every time."
"I was surprised that it went so viral," Ottavino said. "Babe Ruth is probably a name that I shouldn't have used in this example. I caught a lot of flak for it -- mostly funny stuff, like my uncle telling me that he can't go anywhere without hearing about it. I meant no disrespect."
Originally selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2006 Draft, Ottavino projects to fill the bullpen spot vacated by the departure of Player Page for David Robertson, who signed a two-year contract with the Phillies on Jan. 3. Based upon his early chats with manager Aaron Boone, Ottavino expects to face mostly right-handed hitters, whom he held to a .142 average and a .467 OPS last year.
"We have some guys who have a little more strength versus left-handed hitters, even though they're righty pitchers, like Chad Green and Dellin Betances," Ottavino said. "I've been pretty tough on righties in my career, so I'm expecting to get a lot of righty-righty matchups."
Ottavino's arrival marks the latest event in a busy offseason that has seen the Yankees re-sign Britton, Carsten Sabathia and J.A. Happ while adding James Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu, who was Ottavino's teammate last year in Colorado.
"It is nice to have some familiar faces around," Ottavino said. "I played with Troy for three years, and I played with DJ for almost seven. Being familiar with them just makes it a little more comfortable in that adjustment period of Spring Training. The Yankees are getting great players."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.