PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dan Altavilla was a 2014 fifth-round Draft pick of the Seattle Mariners out of Division II Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa. After a year of starting, the Mariners moved the right-hander to the bullpen in 2016 and he took off, pitching most of the year in the
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dan Altavilla was a 2014 fifth-round Draft pick of the Seattle Mariners out of Division II Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa. After a year of starting, the Mariners moved the right-hander to the bullpen in 2016 and he took off, pitching most of the year in the Double-A Eastern League and making his Major League debut on August 27. He is ranked No. 9 on the Mariners' Top 30 Prospects list.
MLBPipeline.com: Last year, you moved to the bullpen. Was that something you always envisioned happening?
Altavilla: I thought it was in the cards right when I was drafted. They basically said, "We're going to start you out as a starter, let you develop your changeup." It's what we did through High-A. Then I came in for Spring Training, after mini-camp, they sat me down and said, "Hey, we think you have better potential out of the bullpen." I took it and ran with it. I've been fortunate enough to have success, so I'm here now.
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MLBPipeline.com: Were you surprised with how easily you made the transition and how quickly you were able to move as a result?
Altavilla: Yeah, I was a little surprised. I didn't think it was going to be an easy transition. There were some bumps in the road, but I caught on really quickly. I was fortunate about that. I had a really good pitching coach in Double-A, I worked with him a lot. And I talked with some of the veteran guys who were in the bullpen to learn what they do to get ready. It wasn't just me who made that adjustment. I learned from a lot of guys there at that point.
MLBPipeline.com: What was it like to get your first callup? How surprised were you that it came so soon?
Altavilla: I wasn't expecting it at all. At the time, we were going through a rough stretch in Jackson. We got rained out that night and when I got the call I was totally shocked. I got called into the office. There were just so many emotions going through my head at that point. I really just wanted to call my folks and let them know. It was a big day for us.
MLBPipeline.com: Then you come up and threw as well as you did. Were you able to look back at what you did and marvel at it at all?
Altavilla: People ask me all the time what my favorite memory was up there. Everything just seemed to smash together because it happened so quickly. In the offseason, I was just going back and watching some outings, being shocked. I was watching these guys growing up and now I'm pitching against them.
MLBPipeline.com: What was the biggest hurdle for you to overcome, going from starting to relieving?
Altavilla: Just coming in and having all your stuff. As a starter, you can come in and kind of feel out your pitches. You could usually use fastball-changeup coming into the game and the first three innings without a problem. But coming out of the 'pen, you need to be sharp, you need to have at least two pitches going. That's what I worked on every day. I got better with it and here I am.
MLBPipeline.com: A lot of times when guys go to the bullpen, the changeup kind of gets shelved. Have you used it at all?
Altavilla: When I got called up, I only used it one time, in the last game. But I've been using it a lot in the offseason and I've been incorporating it into my 'pens. Hopefully I can use it this year against lefties, just to get them off my fastball a little bit, have that extra option.
MLBPipeline.com: How much do you feel your success, making it up to the big leagues, is a statement for guys who come from smaller schools?
Altavilla: I hope it's huge for those guys, because sometimes they can get caught in Division II or lower and they can't make something for themselves. I'd say to just always have a positive attitude and work as hard as anybody. They'll find you if you're good enough.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.