Otto's debut a great sign for Rangers' future

Righty strikes out 7 over 5 scoreless before ‘pen surrenders 5 in 7th

August 28th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Glenn Otto grew up in Spring, Texas, right outside of Houston, and he attended Rice University near Houston’s Museum District. So it was only right that the pitcher would make his Major League debut against his favorite childhood team.

Otto, the Rangers’ No. 24-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, did exactly that, tossing five scoreless innings against the Astros in Friday’s series opener at Globe Life Field. The Rangers would ultimately fall, 5-4, despite the impressive outing from Otto.

The right-hander called his debut the second greatest day of his life, just behind getting married to his wife, who was with his parents in the stands. 

“All I can say is, praise God for this opportunity to be able to do it in my home state,” Otto said. “It went very well, and it's a great start to the beginning of my career. The fact that [my family was] here and able to witness this and be with me in this moment, it's truly special.” 

Otto added that it’s “crazy” how less than a month ago, he was in Pennsylvania as part of the Yankees’ organization before he was included as one of four prospects in the Joey Gallo trade. Being able to make his Major League debut in Texas was the icing on the cake to a crazy journey.

Otto was in line for the win when he left the game, and Texas held a 4-0 lead going into the seventh inning. His nearly flawless debut was then spoiled by an offensive eruption from the Astros after he was removed from the game. The Astros roared back for a five-run seventh inning to take a one-run lead.

Otto was composed on the mound from the very start against one of MLB’s most potent offenses, allowing just two hits and no walks. To start the game, he retired the first three Astros he faced in the first inning. He finished with seven strikeouts, ringing up All-Stars Carlos Correa (1) and Alex Bregman (2).

Despite the enormity of the moment, Otto said he’s always comfortable when he’s throwing a baseball. And while there’s always uncertainty and doubts that may creep in, Otto finds a safe haven in his everyday routine, no matter the level of baseball.

“Honestly, I wasn't too worried about who was in the box,” Otto said. “We did a pretty good job in preparation, knowing these guys and their tendencies, their strengths and their weaknesses, compared to my strengths and weaknesses.  

“When a hitter gets in the box, it's nothing more than a name and a pitch program to follow. I don't get too caught up in thinking ‘Carlos Correa is in the box, oh my gosh.’ It's just that it's my job to get him out. So I just attacked those guys as much as possible, and I think I did a pretty good job of that.” 

Otto is the sixth player in Rangers history to record seven or more strikeouts in his big league debut. He is also just the second Texas pitcher to have seven or more strikeouts in five or fewer innings pitched in his Major League debut. The only other pitcher was 18-year-old David Clyde in 1973, in his first professional game.

Otto threw a healthy mix of pitches, using his slider and four-seamer 30 times each. Add in the changeup and curveball, and he’s got the right stuff to be a big league starter, according to Rangers manager Chris Woodward.

The slider, which had a 40% whiff rate against the Astros, is actually a new pitch that he worked on in Spring Training with the Yankees and has refined with the Rangers.

“Since I've become part of the Rangers' organization, it's been more about consistency and the shape of those pitches, making sure they differentiate from each other to make them effective in their own ways,” Otto explained. “I'm really trying to keep the slider separate from the curveball and get to different movement profiles there and to be able to use those effectively.”

This season was supposed to be about bridging the gap between rebuilding and contending for the Rangers, and Otto’s debut is an encouraging look for the club’s future as they sit well out of contention this season. And as the prospect closest to being big league-ready from the Gallo trade -- the other three started at High-A Hickory -- Otto is a good sign of what’s to come.

Woodward compared it to the Dane Dunning-Lance Lynn trade between the Rangers and White Sox during the offseason, when Texas also received a young pitcher, who will be under club control, in return for one of the club’s best players.

“Obviously, that's why you do these things,” Woodward said. “That's why you trade your best players -- so you get good ones that are young and that you know you're going to have for a while. And it’s exciting. I want to fast-forward a couple years to see where these guys are at, because a lot of these guys are gonna mature pretty quickly. It is encouraging when they come up here and they have an outing like that. Hopefully, there’s more to come this year.”