In 2003, Adam graduated from the Berkeley Carroll School in Park Slope, Brooklyn. During his days at Berkeley, he played his summer ball for the Youth Service League. He also played in the local Little League, the 78th Precinct, where his father was an umpire.
While pitching for Northeastern’s baseball team from 2004-06, Ottavino set the program record for most strikeouts in a season twice, recording 106 strikeouts in 2005 and 120 in 2006. Aaron Civale, who know pitches for the Indians, broke Ottavino’s record in 2016. One of Ottavino’s Northeastern records still stands. His 290 career strikeouts are still the most in program history.
In 2005, Ottavino was the America East Conference pitcher of the year. And he followed that up with a 2-2, 1.76 ERA summer in the Cape Cod League. But he really burst onto the 2006 draft landscape when he held then-No. 1 Georgia Tech hitless through six innings in his first start of the season. He struck out 12 Yellow Jackets over seven innings, despite losing 2-1.
His best start of the year came a month later, when he threw a no-hitter while striking out 14 against another of the nation's highest-scoring teams, James Madison. (Aaron Fitt-Baseball America-June 2006)
In 2007, Baseball America rated Ottavino as 7th-best prospect in the Cardinals organization. The magazine moved Adam up to #5 in the St. Louis farm system during the offseason before 2008 spring training. But they dropped Ottavino down to 22nd-best in the Cards' farm system in the spring of 2009.
They moved Ottavino back up to #11 in the Cardinals' organization in the spring of 2010. But he was back down again, this time at #27 in the winter before 2011 spring training and at #26 in the spring of 2012.
In 2007, Ottavino's 12 wins ranked second and his 3.08 ERA was third in the Florida State League.
Ottavino, who grew up a Yankees fan in New York. However, his mother, Eve, was a Mets fan.
Ottavino's mother is a fourth-grade teacher, but it turns out she's a sports psychologist as well. "If I have a bad game, maybe my Dad will talk about the strategy of what I did, while my mom will talk about how my mind is doing," Ottavino said. "'How's your psyche? Remember that you're good. Remember all the work you put in.' All those things remind me to stay positive and not get too complicated with things.
"Both of them are always letting me know that I have people behind me that love me."
The dream of making it in the Majors is unreachable for all but a few. Those who are good enough to have a chance must deal with tests along the way. Ottavino, who was a Cardinals first-round draft pick in 2006 but didn't find his footing in the Majors until in 2012 with the Rockies, said his family understood in ways others might not have.
"My father is an actor, mainly a theater actor, but he's been in a lot of everything," Ottavino said. "He's definitely not a star, but he's been working steadily for the last 30 years. (Thomas Harding-MLB.com-5/10/13)
2013: He currently wears number 0 and is one of the few pitchers in Major League history to wear any single-digit number. Adam started wearing the number 0 in youth baseball. The uniforms did not have names on the back. He and his family thought an 0 on his back for Ottavino, was a cool idea.
In 2009, Ottavino pitched for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
December 2015: Ottavino wrote and produced a six-minute documentary about his journey back from Tommy John surgery. When his time as a pitcher is complete, he may have a role as a producer. His movie begins with somber music and even sadder shots—like him staring at the field from the top step of an empty dugout on a wet, dreary day. There are also shots of him struggling to get his shirt on with one hand, getting his stitches removed, and pedaling on a stationary bike in a deserted workout room.
Spoiler alert: The film, edited and produced by Ottavino, ends on a high note, with an aerial view of him giving a hug to someone after tossing a few baseballs in the outfield grass at Coors Field. (Ronald Blum - 2015)
Adam 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 in 2018.
The Rockies and their fans didn't like what they saw during games of Adam, 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 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 regaining belief: "It was in the winter," he said. "I did a lot of good work this winter (2017). 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. I've only pitched in two games in 2018, 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." (Harding - mlb.com - 4/01/18)
Adam certainly isn't selling himself short. In an interview on MLB.com's Statcast Podcast, Ottavino said that Babe Ruth would struggle in the modern game.
"I had an argument with a coach in Triple-A about Babe Ruth's effectiveness in today's game," Ottavino recalled. "I said, 'Babe Ruth, with that swing, swinging that bat, I got him hitting .140 with eight homers.'
"He was like, 'Are you nuts? Babe Ruth would hit .370 with 60 homers,' and I'm like, 'I would strike Babe Ruth out every time.'
"I'm not trying to disrespect him, you know, rest in peace, you know, shout out to Babe Ruth. But it was a different game, I mean the guy ate hot dogs and drank beer and did whatever he did. It was just a different game." (Jesse Yomtov - USA TODAY - Dec. 10, 2018)
Feb. 2019: Fast forward a couple months, and Ottavino finds himself in Spring Training with the very team with which Ruth's legend was built—the New York Yankees. Having reported to Spring Training in Tampa earlier in the week, Ottavino met with the media and was asked once again about his bold proclamation:
Would he really send Ruth back to the dugout shaking his head every time? "Probably not," Ottavino conceded. "I was just talking more about the evolution of pitching in the game."
2019: Ottavino will wear No. 0 for the Yankees, becoming the first player in franchise history to have that number. Ottavino has regularly worn the No. 0 in his career.
Ottavino started his major league career in St. Louis, but never had a full-time jersey number due to movement between the minors and majors.
Once he got to Colorado, Ottavino found a jersey number he liked: 0. Ottavino wore the jersey No. 0 with the Rockies beginning in 2013, becoming the first player in franchise history to wear the number.
When Ottavino signed with the Yankees in 2019, he decided to stick with his jersey number. He became the first player in Yankees history to wear No. 0, which is the only single-digit number that isn’t retired by the ballclub.
Opening Day nerves materialized as expected for Adam, but as he scanned the walls of his Manhattan apartment, there was also a fresh layer of excitement accompanying his first regular-season game in a Yankees uniform.
A couple of subway lines from the Brooklyn neighborhood where Ottavino enjoyed high school stardom, and some 40 blocks north of the vacant Harlem storefront where he gathered high-tech gear to better understand his mechanics, Ottavino arrived at Yankee Stadium early in order to soak in every ounce of the festivities.
"I think the intros were the coolest thing," Ottavino said after the victory over the Orioles. "The crowd was super loud, and it was exciting to see all of that. Putting on my uniform was cool, obviously. I didn't really notice anything while I was pitching because I was kind of focused."
Blessed with a high-octane fastball and a video-game slider that generated 112 strikeouts in 75 appearances for the Rockies in 2018, Ottavino was one of the Yankees' celebrated acquisitions of the winter, adding to a bullpen that had already been considered to be among the game's best.
When Ottavino agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal in December, Aaron Judge had been among those cheering the move. That sentiment was reinforced as Ottavino jogged from the right-field bullpen in the sixth inning, relieving starter Masahiro Tanaka.
Ottavino retired all four batters he faced, striking out three. Judge said he was particularly wowed by the sequence that froze Baltimore catcher Jesus Sucre looking at a called third strike to end the seventh inning. "I think he threw him two nasty curveballs," Judge said. "The ball looks like it's going to hit you in the back hip, and all of a sudden it's right down the middle. He threw two of those, then he puts a 94 [mph] little two-seamer in there. It's impressive what he can do."
Ottavino said that he had a small cheering section in the seats for the opener, and he had been told ahead of time that the seventh inning would be his. Boone left the door open for Ottavino to record an out in the sixth, which is exactly what happened, as he retired Rio Ruiz looking at a called third strike.
"I was really focused on the guys I might have to face, and so it felt like a regular game for me," Ottavino said. "I had probably a dozen people here. I'm just happy I got in because they came and spent a lot of money." (Hoch - mlb.com - 3/29/19)
Ottavino’s father, John, is an actor who has played small roles in some big movies.
During his childhood days in Brooklyn, Ottavino and his dad, John, would play baseball at one of the fields located in Prospect Park until it got dark out.
John Ottavino took up coaching his son’s baseball teams as he grew up, but his main job remained in entertainment. John Ottavino is an actor who’s appeared in shows, movies, and Broadway plays.
When Ottavino was a kid, his father held small roles in TV shows such as “The Equalizer,” “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order,” and “Law & Order SVU.” The elder Ottavino has also appeared in movies such as “Malcolm X” and “Revolutionary Road.” (Conor Roche - Jan. 27, 2021)
Did you watch “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, then immediately want to learn how to play chess?
It’s OK, you can answer honestly. That’s what happened to Red Sox reliever Garrett Whitlock, who recently revealed to WEEI’s Rob Bradford that setup man Adam Ottavino is the mastermind behind a group of players who play chess in the clubhouse.
Ottavino started the whole thing by bringing in a pair of magnetic chessboards once he learned Whitlock was interested in playing, and now Nick Pivetta and Christian Vázquez also are members of the Red Sox Chess Club. So is manager Alex Cora, who apparently plays every day.
Chess runs in the family for Ottavino, who learned from his uncle. His daughter takes lessons, and he had a group going when he was with the Colorado Rockies.
Whitlock said he doesn’t think he “ever will be able to catch” Adam: “You see how cerebral Adam is out on the mound, it’s even much more so with chess,” Whitlock told Bradford. “I mean he’s a mastermind. He’s very, very smart so I don’t know if I will ever be able to catch him on the chess board.”
But even the master was defeated once; Whitlock does have a single win over Ottavino. (Jenna Ciccotelli - NESN - June 29, 2021)
June 2006: Adam signed with the Cardinals after they chose him in the first round (#30 overall), out of Northeastern University in Boston. His bonus was for $950,000, signing with scout Kobe Perez.
April 3, 2012: The Rockies claimed Ottavino off waivers from the Cardinals.
December 20, 2015: Ottavino and the Rockies agreed on a three-year, $10.4 million contract. Ottavino receives $1.3 million in 2016, $2.1 million in 2017, and $7 million in 2018, avoiding salary arbitration.
Oct 29, 2018: Adam chose free agency.
January 17, 2019: The Yankees signed Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million deal.
Jan 25, 2021: The Yankees traded Ottavino and RHP Frank German to the Red Sox for a PTBNL. The Yankees are including $850,000 in the deal, and Boston will assume the remaining $7 million owed to Ottavino.
Ottavino is owed $8 million in 2021. The Yankees will send $850,000 to the Red Sox in the trade. Boston will be on the hook for $7.1 million of Ottavino’s salary.
Nov 3, 2021: Adam chose free agency.
March 13, 2022: Ottavino signed a one-year, $4 million pact with the Mets, along with a $1 million performance bonus.
Nov 6, 2022: Adam chose free agency.
- Dec 27, 2022: The Mets signed free agent Adam.
|DOB:||11/22/1985||Agent:||ACES - Sam & Seth Levinson|
|Birth City:||Brooklyn, NY|
|Draft:||Cardinals #1 - 2006 - Out of Northeastern Univ. (MA)|
Ottavino has a 91-98 mph four-seam FASTBALL, an 89-93 mph two-seam sinker and a tight, power SLIDER that runs away from righthanded hitters, along with a tighter CURVE and a sinking CHANGEUP that is an effective weapon.
Adam will need his changeup to continue to improve so that he can successfully retire lefthanded hitters. His fastball has good arm-side run.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 27% of the time; Sinker 25.7% of the time; Change .2%; Slider 41.7%; and Cutter 5.4% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 38.8% of the time; Sinker 11.5% of the time; Change .1%; Slider 47.2%; and Cutter 2.5% of the time.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 1.6% of the time, his Sinker 39.9%, Slider 45.1%; and Cutter 13.5% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.3 mph, Sinker 94.2, Slider 82, and Cutter 88.6 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball less than 1% of the time, his Sinker 44.3%, Change 3.8%; Slider 47%; and Cutter 4.6% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.4 mph, Sinker 93.7, Change 88.3, Slider 81.1, and Cutter 86.5 mph.
2021 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 20.8% of the time, his Sinker 28%, Change 1.4%; Slider 46.2%; Curve 1.9%; and Cutter 1.7% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 95.7 mph, Sinker 94.8, Change 88.3, Slider 80.9, Curve 78.6, and Cutter 87.6 mph.
2022 Season Pitch Usage/Avg. Velo: Slider 43% - 81 mph; Sinker 32% - 94 mph; Fastball 12.5% - 95 mph; Change 7% - 89 mph; Cutter 5.5% - 87.6 mph.
Adam has a loose, easy delivery coming from his strong, lanky right arm. He has a little tilt in the back of his delivery that causes him to get under the ball sometimes, but his arm is strong enough to compensate.
During a Cardinals mini-camp before 2008 spring training, Ottavino was encouraged by his calmed-down delivery and improved mechanics. However, Adam lost the consistency with his mechanics for most of the season because he changed things, then couldn't get his normal delivery back.
So, midway through the 2009 season, the Cardinals staged a "delivery intervention," if you will, and Adam pitched better down the stretch. At one time, Ottavino would raise his hands above his head as part of his delivery. Another time he tried to go with the athletic sling delivery that he saw in a video the Cardinals showed featuring Bob Gibson. He often leapt at the plate.
That led to erratic command and results. In 2009, Dave Duncan reached out to Ottavino and suggested a simplified delivery. Ottavino took to it . . . and took off.
Ottavino needs better command, but the movement on his pitches is so good that Adam can actually aim for the middle of the plate and the life on his pitches will bring him success. He works both sides of the plate.
But Adam needs to become more efficient with his pitches, lowering his pitch count and the number of batters he walks.
Ottavino has a calm demeanor and shows poise on the mound.
Adam's slider has long been known to make a grown man cry. Determined to master his fastball command in 2014, Ottavino stuck with his repertoire. In 2014, he was throwing his fastball for a strike 21.8 percent of the time, as of August, more than doubling his previous career rate.
2015 Improvements: In the last two seasons, Ottavino dominated righthanded hitters, allowing a .218 batting average. Lefthanded hitters, however, hit .333 off him—a 115-point difference. "Unacceptable," said Adam.
Closers can't be situational guys. They have to have the arsenal to get out hitters from both sides of the plate. Ottavino didn't have that before. He, however, does now. Given the challenge at the end of last season to find a way to nullify lefthanded hitters, Ottavino watched videos, and it wasn't pretty. The bulk of his pitches to lefthanded hitters were on the outer third of the plate.
"Guys would just sit on [the pitch away] and were even hitting pitches off the plate," said Ottavino. "That's how comfortable they were." Ottavino's changeup to lefthanded hitters seemed to have "hit me" stamped on it. And his slider not only broke down into a lefthanded hitter's hitting zone, but was in the mid 80-mph range.
"I tweaked my approach," Ottavino said. Tweaked? That's putting it mildly. Ottavino broke out a cut fastball, which he hadn't used since his days at Northeastern University, and put that changeup on hold.
"It's a new wrinkle," said Ottavino, who joined the Rockies as a waiver claim in 2012. "You are looking at 90, 91 miles per hour with action. I worked on it all spring. I had to have a strategy."
Now, Adam not only has the strategy, but he also has the chance to pitch the ninth inning. "It is always nice to be the last guy out there, to get that last out in a game," said Ottavino. "It is something every reliever aspires to do." It is something Ottavino is finally getting the chance to do. (Tracey Ringolsby - MLB.com - 4/16/15)
August 16, 2016: Adam settled back in as the Rockies' closer, set a club record in a 6-2 win, throwing a scoreless ninth inning to extend his streak to 29.2 straight scoreless frames. That mark was also the longest active streak in the Majors.
Ottavino hasn't allowed a run in 35 straight outings dating back to Sept. 6, 2014, eight months before he underwent Tommy John surgery. He returned to the big league roster on July 5, 2016. (Kramer - MLB.com)
Adam thought a good day's work was done. But a call didn't go his way. By the time he actually finished, he had an all-time clunker in a 12-6 loss to the Dodgers.
He thought the seventh ended with his full-count, two-out pitch to the Dodgers' Austin Barnes, but home-plate umpire Mark Carlson called a ball. From there, Adam fired a Rockies-record-tying four wild pitches, which accounted for five runs.
He also yielded a two-run Cody Bellinger homer and was charged with six runs in one inning. Ottavino became the first pitcher in the 50 years—as far back as the Elias Sports Bureau could dig—to give up four or more runs on wild pitches in a game. It is known that Ottavino's performance made the Rockies the first team in the live ball era (since 1920) to allow five runs on wild pitches.
"You can call it whatever you want," Ottavino said. "It was pretty pathetic. I've pitched badly before. I need to get to the drawing board and see what changes I need to make." (Harding - mlb.com - 6/25/17)
Adam doesn't use his slider the way most pitchers use their breaking balls. He tends to pitch backward, starting counts with sliders and throwing them frequently when he's behind. Ottavino also has tinkered with arm angle and velocity on his slider, and his ad-libbing is partially why the pitch has been so successful.
Using just one name to define every slider he's thrown doesn't do justice to the overall variance. The version of Ottavino's slider that sparks GIFs of hitters buckling at the freakish movement—that's more like a curve from a lower arm angle. It can float in between 76 and the low 80s in mph. His hard slider is 86-87 mph. "It's only one pitch," Ottavino says, "but it's got a lot of different ways I can throw it."
Ottavino said, "It's been my most successful pitch in terms of hits, hard hits, everything. I'm just trying to use it as much, because without it, I'd probably be pretty bad."
Statcast fact: Ottavino used his slider 52 percent of the time—it has been devastating as a first pitch. Those first-pitch sliders have been strikes 65 percent of the time.
In 2018, Ottavino's slider was voted one of the nastiest pitches in baseball by MLB players.
Ottavino throws his slider and his sinker in almost equal measure, and one big key to his rise in relief standing in 2018 was his creation of a cutter that he sharpened in the previous winter with the use of high-speed cameras.
"He uses all three of his pitches," Padres catcher Austin Hedges said. "And when he's throwing his fastball for strikes, he's unhittable."
But Ottavino's improved command of his Wiffle Ball slider. When viewed from behind the mound, it seems to take a total left turn as it reaches the plate. (Anthony Castrovince - 1/08/2019)
March 30, 2020: Why Adam's slider so nasty—18.4 inches of horizontal movement.
Ottavino's boomerang slider is one of those pitches you want to watch over and over again. How does a baseball break like that? Is he throwing a Wiffle ball? Did a Major League hitter really miss the ball by that much?
The Yankees setup man averages 18.4 inches of horizontal movement on his slider. That's right, a foot and a half . . . sideways. Ottavino's slider moves nearly 10 inches more than the average Major League slider. Or, to put it another way, more than twice as much as an average slider. He's among the leaders in all of Statcast's slider movement metrics. Adam throws his slider more than half the time. And it's no wonder MLB hitters batted .157 with 46 strikeouts against it last season. (D Adler - MLB.com - March 30, 2020)
2020 Season: Ottavino was awful in 2020. He had arguably the worst season of his career. In 24 games, he posted an ERA of just below 6.00 and just didn’t look like the pitcher he did in previous years.
From 2018 through 2019, he posted an ERA of 2.19 with a 3.06 FIP, 1.139 WHIP and 212 ERA+. He also averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. And he did this pitching at Coors Field and Yankee Stadium! (BlakeHarris@BlakeHarrisTBLA - Jan 18, 2021)
- 2021 Stats: 69 games, 4.21 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 11 saves, 2.03 SO/W, 113 ERA+
To make up for the shenanigans that came with the late 2020 Zack Wheeler trade rumors and John Middleton insisting that they won’t trade him for Babe Ruth, the Phillies should sign the pitcher who said he can strike out Ruth “every time.”
In all seriousness, the Phillies pitching staff last season lacked guys who had a dangerous slider and Ottavino, 36, could fill that need. Pitching out of the bullpen in Philadelphia shouldn’t be a daunting assignment for the Brooklyn native as Ottavino has spent the last three seasons with Boston and New York. He spent the last four seasons playing in the postseason and said on a recent FanGraphs podcast that he prefers to play for a contender in 2022.
In 2021, the Red Sox trusted him in a lot of big spots and he delivered. He was tied for 10th in MLB in shutdown outings (34) with Milwaukee’s Devin Williams and Seattle’s Paul Sewald. (Destiny Lugardo - Feb 19, 2022)
- 2022 Season: He signed a cheap one-year deal with the Mets. Boy did that pay off.
Adam went 6-3 with a 2.06 ERA in 66 appearances. He was the primary set-up man for a really good team.
The story of Ottavino's career has been great stuff but can't command it. Even in the seasons he struggled with the Yankees and Red Sox, Ottavino posted great strikeout numbers. The issue was he was walking 4.9 batters per nine in those seasons and allowing 8.4 H/9.
Ottavino found a way to still post elite strikeout numbers (10.8 K/9) but limit the walks (2.2 BB/9). He had his best season at limiting walks since 2014.
Ottavino was in the 99th percentile in average exit velocity and the 97th percentile in hard-hit rate. In addition, he was in the 89th percentile in K-rate according to baseball savant. Ottavino was striking guys out at an elite clip; and when they did make contact, it wasn't hard hit. (Zachary Rotman - Nov. 3, 2022)
- Adam allows a lot of stolen bases—15 in 2019 alone.
- May 2008: Ottavino was on the D.L. with a sore shoulder.
July 4–Sept 29, 2010: Adam was on the D.L., undergoing rehab and therapy to repair a tear in the labrum of his right shoulder.
Ottavino was frustrated by how the organization handled his shoulder injury, and how the perception that he was hurt may have eased his way off the 40-man roster.
April 27, 2015: The Rockies put Ottavino on the D.L. with right triceps inflammation.
May 7, 2015: Ottavino underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery to repair a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
February 18-July 5, 2016: The Rockies placed Ottavino on the 60-day DL for recovery from Tommy John surgery.
May 30-June 9, 2017: Adam was on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
- May 28-June 14, 2018: Ottavino landed on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain.