Adam Ottavino was handed the Red Sox setup reliever job out of spring training, but hardly ran away with the opportunity.
In his first eight appearances, the veteran right-hander posted a 5.40 ERA while giving up seven hits, issuing six walks, hitting one batter and blowing two saves over 6 2/3 innings.
However, since then, Ottavino has been one of the most effective relievers in Major League Baseball while forming a dynamite one-two punch with Matt Barnes at the back of Boston’s bullpen.
Ottavino, acquired via offseason trade with the Yankees, produced his fourth perfect outing in six appearances Saturday night in Boston’s 7-3 victory over New York. In the process, he has lowered his season ERA to 2.78 to go along with a 2-2 record and an American League-leading 12 holds. Right-handed batters now are an astonishing 4-for-50 against him.
Ottavino has been particularly good since giving up two earned runs in a May 2 appearance against the Texas Rangers.
Check out this tweet from Red Sox Notes:
Now, it hasn’t been all great for Ottavino. His 16.2 walk percentage ranks ninth worst in all of baseball, and too often this season he has walked a leadoff batter. Plus, that a 35-year-old has pitched in nearly half of Boston’s 58 games is cause for concern.
But his command has drastically improved since the start of the year, too. Ottavino has walked just six batters over his last 13 appearances, and three of those free passes were issued May 28 when it was absolutely pouring at Fenway Park. As for the usage, the development of Garrett Whitlock and emergence of Hirokazu Sawamura could enable Alex Cora to give Ottavino more rest as the season progresses.
The Red Sox bullpen has been a pleasant surprise this season, with Barnes, who ranks near or at the top of most statistical categories for relievers, leading the charge. But it remains relatively thin, with few obvious in-house options capable of filling the setup role should Ottavino falter. Whitlock is inexperienced, Sawamura walks too many batters and Darwinzon Hernandez simply is too wild to earn consistent high-leverage innings.
For now, Ottavino is doing his best to ensure such a problem never comes to fruition.