The New York Yankees‘ bullpen was mediocre in 2020. It was a notorious fall from the elite groups that the Bombers fielded in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Tommy Kahnle’s injury was a blow that the team could not recover from, but equally damaging was Adam Ottavino’s fall from grace.
If Ottavino, who finished 2020 with a 5.89 ERA (3.52 FIP) in 18.1 innings, can return to form, the Yankees’ bullpen would have a fourth reliable option to navigate through those last few difficult outs, in addition to Chad Green, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman.
In his first season with the Yankees, in 2019, Ottavino had a 1.90 ERA in 73 games. He was excellent, but his command completely abandoned him come playoff time and he wasn’t reliable in October.
The Yankees are banking on a return to form from Ottavino
His elevated ERA this season was partially because of a sluggish start, and since the calendar was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic and the MLB-MLBPA negotiations, there wasn’t time for him to recover even though he finished strong: in his first 17 games, he had a 7.82 ERA, yet over his last seven outings, he only allowed one earned run, had 10 punchouts and only one walk in 5 2/3 innings.
â€œIâ€™ve said this a few times, I just felt like it wasnâ€™t good enough,â€ Ottavino told the YES Networkâ€™s Meredith Marakovits on â€œYankees Hot Stoveâ€ on Monday night. â€œObviously, I wasnâ€™t consistent and I didnâ€™t induce the weak contact that I usually do. I felt like I kind of ran out of time there, starting to get going there towards the end. I liked the way I was throwing it headed into the playoffs, but I kind of ran out of time.â€
The Yankees are hoping Ottavino can go back to the pitcher he was during the 2019 regular season. In those 5 2/3 final 2020 innings (an extremely small sample, yet it’s what we have) he was starting to show that form.
â€œIâ€™m in my last seven or eight games, I think Iâ€™ve only had one walk and had a bunch of strikeouts, so it was a little more indicative of the way I usually throw the ball,â€ Ottavino said. â€œStill give up some hits, but I felt like a lot of it was just kind of poor pitch selection on my part. So thereâ€™s pretty easy adjustments to make from that standpoint. Just kind of think through it a little better and make some better choices. But I like the way I was throwing it at that point. So, I wish I would have had a few more months there kind of getting rolling and stay rolling but it kind of is what it is.â€