Rockies right-hander Adam Ottavino is one of the best setup men in baseball this season. He has allowed just one run in 19 innings, while striking out 35. MLB.com caught up with the Brooklyn native after he defeated his nephew, Davis, in a chess match at Citi Field. He had
Rockies right-hander Adam Ottavino is one of the best setup men in baseball this season. He has allowed just one run in 19 innings, while striking out 35.
MLB.com caught up with the Brooklyn native after he defeated his nephew, Davis, in a chess match at Citi Field. He had a lot to say during a 20-question interview.
MLB.com: You pitched against the Mets this weekend. Describe the feeling you have when you pitch in New York.
Ottavino: Right now, I try to treat it like it is normal, like nothing is different. I think the first couple of times, it was definitely different, just aware that people I knew were watching me. Not a lot of people watch Rockies games in New York. I'm definitely a little more nervous than [I probably should be]. Right now, I try to think of it as the same.
MLB.com: As a kid, did you ever dream about playing in New York?
Ottavino: Definitely. Going to games at Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium, I always wanted to be out there. The first time I played [in New York as a professional was in 2012]. It meant a lot to me.
MLB.com: Did you grow up a Mets fan or a Yankees fan?
Ottavino: I grew up a Yankees fan. I was a little bit of a front-runner. At that time, they were so good. They were good at everything. I loved watching them play. I love baseball history, so they are a team with a lot of it, so I followed it.
MLB.com: You hear Billy Joel say, "I'm in a New York state of mind." When you are in New York, what's on your mind?
Ottavino: I don't know. That's a tough question. I just feel comfortable here. I grew up in the city. Until I started traveling for baseball, I thought the whole world was a giant city. I didn't know anything else. It feels natural to me to walk around, take the train, see the different culture. I just always felt comfortable here.
MLB.com: What was it like growing up in Brooklyn?
Ottavino: It was great. Being an only child, you would think I would be lonely, but being that there are so many people around, so many kids, I thought I had a huge family in my neighborhood. I had a ton of great friends. I was always doing activities.
MLB.com: This might sound like a strange question, but being from Brooklyn, did you ever say, "Man, I wish I could have seen the Dodgers play in Brooklyn?"
Ottavino: Absolutely, 100 percent. My grandmother told me she went to Ebbets Field and how special it was. I lived pretty close to where it would have been. A lot of the old-timers that I knew growing up were Dodgers fans, and their hearts were ripped out when they left.
MLB.com: Let's talk about the Rockies. In the past, they had a tough time winning on the road. The past two years have been a different story. Why?
Ottavino: Our pitching has done a really great job. Hitting-wise, we have guys with more experience when it comes to the difference between Coors Field and outside of Coors Field. Our guys, who have been around the altitude longer, have made better adjustments this year and have been able to manufacture some runs.
MLB.com: The pitching is outstanding this year. It didn't matter who was pitching, say, 10 years ago. The road was bad for the Rockies.
Ottavino: No disrespect to the guys 10 years ago, but we have a lot of good pitchers now. Our pitching is really strong across the board. We don't throw out any bad pitchers. It's as simple as that. We have a lot of talent.
MLB.com: The starting pitching has been awesome and you add you and Wade Davis to the back end of the bullpen, and it's even better. What's turned this thing around?
Ottavino: It's the pitching, because we didn't have enough of it -- even two years ago. Last year, we saw the young guys really make an impact on our starting rotation. That was huge, and we have more of a veteran bullpen. I think it was a good strategy. We drafted well for young pitchers. We have a lot more overall depth. It's kind of a secret to the regular season.
MLB.com: The Rockies signed Davis before the season started. How much has he helped you?
Ottavino: I enjoy just really having him around. He is a professional. He closed out the World Series. He pitched seventh, eighth and ninth innings. He started. We knew each other a decade ago in the Minor Leagues when we were starters. I always admired him, but I didn't know how he thought about the game. I'm super excited that he knows the game the way he does. We can talk a little details. He sees things I don't even see. Just from that standpoint of being a student of the game, it's been a treat to have him as a teammate.
MLB.com: What did Davis teach you that you did not see?
Ottavino: Just some stuff with hitters. It's what he looks at when he is deciding what to throw. You can get stuck in one way of thinking. He looked at some things differently than I did. He opened my mind up to different possibilities.
MLB.com: I read where you reinvented yourself. I understand your father-in-law played a role in your turnaround.
Ottavino: Out of desperation. I pitched really poorly last season, so I knew I had to make changes. In the game, you can't just sit around and wait for things to happen. You have to be proactive. So I was. Luckily, my father-in-law had the space where I could go in the lab and do some scientific stuff and figure out what I needed to do.
MLB.com: What did you fix?
Ottavino: It was, like, five different things at once. It was my delivery was out of whack. My stride was in the wrong direction. I fixed that. My mentality wasn't good as it needed to be -- my mental focus pitch to pitch. I wanted to add another pitch to my arsenal. I wanted to be a little stronger physically.
MLB.com: It's worked so far.
Ottavino: I'm happy so far, but it's a long season, and I'm trying to keep going as far as what I'm doing.
MLB.com: Prior to this year, your career has been up and down. How good is it that the Rockies still believe in you?
Ottavino: It's great. I have zero complaints with the Rockies. They took me off waivers when I was struggling with St. Louis. I needed a new home. I came here seven years ago, and I got an opportunity. They believed in me from Day 1. I haven't looked back. Even when I struggled and got hurt, they still stuck with me. I really appreciate it. They were always honest with me with everything. That's all you can ask for as a baseball player.
MLB.com: You have been with the Rockies for seven years. Is it hard to believe it has been that long?
Ottavino: Definitely. In this game, you are trying to scrap for the next year. You look back on it and you say, "Wow, I've been on this one team for seven years." I have a lot of pride in that, especially pitching for the Rockies. Not a lot of people have had the longevity. It means a little bit extra for me.
MLB.com: You and many of the current pitchers on the roster haven't allowed the altitude in Colorado to bother you. Why is that the case?
Ottavino: You have to be tough. You have to have [guts]. It's not easy. I will not sit here and say I'm an altitude denier. I think it's real. You have to adjust and learn about it. You have to learn how to combat it. It's an adjustment for every single pitcher. I embraced it from Day 1 because it was my opportunity to play in the big leagues or I was going to be home. It's just been good. We've gotten better at communicating with the new pitchers about how it is. The guys have made the necessary adjustments. The talent certainly helps.
MLB.com: How far can this team go?
Ottavino: Far. We stuck in there last year, and anything can happen in the playoffs. We can go far. We have the talent. We have good pitching. We have to stay healthy, especially with our position players. We'll try to stay in the mix and get on a run.
MLB.com: All these years, I used to see the Rockies rely heavily on hitting. Now, they are relying on pitching.
Ottavino: The Rockies adjusted. They learned [that relying just on hitting] really didn't work. Even in my first couple of years, the Rockies had unbelievable offense, but it just kills the team if you are allowing eight runs every night. The Rockies made the adjustment, and we are seeing that it is paying off in terms of being consistent.
MLB.com: How much does chess help your game?
Ottavino: I think it helps because it's about seeing things ahead of time, which is what is happening in pitching. In terms of focus, I'm a believer in focus when you are on the mound. Anything I could do to practice my focus muscle -- if you will -- I will.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.