PHOENIX -- Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino paid particular attention to mental skills -- with visualization a key component -- and it could be paying off, with six strikeouts in only seven batters faced in his first two regular-season appearances.Possessing a slider he can use a myriad of ways to right-
PHOENIX -- Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino paid particular attention to mental skills -- with visualization a key component -- and it could be paying off, with six strikeouts in only seven batters faced in his first two regular-season appearances.
Possessing a slider he can use a myriad of ways to right- and left-handed batters, Ottavino struck out 11 batters per nine innings 2015-17, and was just as effective after returning from a 2015 Tommy John surgery as before. However, in 63 games last year he walked a career-high 6.6 batters per nine innings, and by the end of the season he no longer pitched in high-leverage situations.
The Rockies and their fans didn't like what they saw during games, and Ottavino didn't like what he saw when he thought about pitching, so he made proper visualization an important a part of his program -- with the same priority as honing his pitches.
What he didn't visualize, however, was success in the sense of sparkling results and stats.
"That doesn't actually do me any good," he said. "If I can visualize success, I can visualize failure, too."
Ottavino took time to describe the right, and wrong, visions for his mind's eye.
On "seeing" the hitter and the catcher:
"That's where it comes in a little bit pregame. Visualize somebody getting in the box and kind of mentally prepare yourself for what it's going to look like when it matters.
"Even walking on the game mound pregame, sometimes when nobody's around just to see what the visual looks like around home plate, I think a lot of guys do that, so it's not a surprise when you go out there. Even though you've pitched in this ballpark -- or a lot of ballparks -- a lot, sometimes you forget exactly."
On locking into the target:
"When I'm watching another person pitch on TV, when the catcher sets up, I try to maintain my focus on the catcher's target all the way through the pitch, like on my own. Because that's what you want to do when you're pitching. You want to lock in on your target or your intention, and the trick is to be able to do it all the way through your pitch.
"A lot of times, when you're not going good, you're sure you're looking at the target, but when you start to move and start to throw, it becomes a little blurry."
On pitch paths:
"It depends on my pitches. I don't want to give away exactly what I think. But in general I try to visualize the entire path of the ball to home plate, and I try to send it along that path."
On dealing with failure:
"There's definitely an embarrassment factor when you expect to do well and you're not doing well, and you fail in front of a lot of people. Certainly, I had some games last year where I was pretty depressed after them.
"It's hard to look the manager in the eye and tell him you're ready to do it the next day when truthfully you don't feel like you're very good right now."
On re-gaining belief:
"It was in the winter. I did a lot of good work this winter. At some point, I started remembering that I'm talented, and I'm good and my pitches are still there, and it's just a matter of getting to the high level of focus that I had held myself to previously.
"Two games in, I have no idea what the rest of the season is going to hold. Nobody knows. But I know if I do things the right way, I can live with the result."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.