When the Red Sox acquired Adam Ottavino in a trade with the Yankees during the offseason, manager Alex Cora said he wanted him to pitch in high-leverage moments.
Toward the end of his two-year tenure with the Yankees, Ottavino lost his key role in New York’s bullpen. But Cora wanted to restore that belief in Ottavino that made him one of the toughest relievers to face in all of baseball when he was on top of his game. As Ottavino reflects on the year, that aspect of Cora’s managerial tactics hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I’m proud of the way that I’ve driven winning this year,” Ottavino said Sunday before the series finale with the Yankees. “I’ve pitched high leverage the whole year and for the most part when the game’s on the line I’ve come through most of the time so I’ve definitely helped the team win a lot.”
While Ottavino acknowledged that part, he’s also acknowledged some of the blemishes this season, too. Heading into Sunday, Ottavino had a 3.77 ERA in 59⅓ innings, striking out 68 batters. He’s averaged five walks per nine innings.
“My pitching fundamentals have been so-so, at best,” Ottavino admitted. “I haven’t thrown enough strikes. I haven’t struck enough guys out and just in general, I’ve had too many base runners, too many stolen bases. It’s been the little things that I’m going to focus on going into next year.”
A positive Ottavino can take from the season is the implementation of a four-seam fastball. It’s a pitch he moved away from in his three previous seasons. In the 2020 COVID-19-shortened season, for instance, Ottavino tossed it just 0.3 percent of the time. During the 2019 season, Ottavino tossed it just 1.9 percent of the time. He’s up to 19.9 percent this year, averaging 95.5 miles per hour. Hitters are batting just .068 against it.
“That’s been basically my most effective pitch this year,” Ottavino said. “That’s one adjustment. Basically to summon a new pitch out of thin air, which I thought was really going to be really helpful for me versus lefties. Just going forward, in general, to have a new weapon that’s a positive.”
There’s still baseball to be played. Ottavino knows that. His push forward in this last week of the season is to ensure, as much as his job allows him, that the Red Sox reach the postseason. Nevertheless, Ottavino, a free agent at the end of the year, intimated he would certainly entertain making a return to Boston.
“You always want to play in the big markets and in the best cities,” Ottavino said. “Boston’s right there, if not the best one. So of course I’d love to come back. I know the team is going to be improving and getting better each and every year for the next several years.”
Taylor placed on injured list
The Red Sox placed Josh Taylor on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 23, with a lower back strain. According to Cora, Taylor hurt his back in the weight room. He is the second key reliever to hit the injured list in the last week, joining Garrett Whitlock. “It’s a tough one,” Cora said of losing Taylor. “He’s been dominant against lefties throughout the season. He’s been really good against them. He was throwing the ball well.” Lefties are hitting just .146 against Taylor in 90 plate appearances. Whitlock still isn’t doing any baseball activities. But Cora said he’s progressing and the team is confident he will return before the season is finished . . . The Red Sox honored the memory of 25-year-old US Marine Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo before Sunday night’s game. Her brother, Yolbin, threw out the first pitch. David Ortiz was on the receiving end . . . A sellout crowd of 9,508 at Polar Park watched Worcester lose to Rochester, 5-4, in its home finale. The WooSox drew 362,559 in 59 dates in its inaugural season, an average of 6,145 fans per game. The WooSox are off Monday and Tuesday before beginning the final series Wednesday on the road against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.