I was able to get in touch with 2006 1st round pick Adam Ottavino recently, and he was happy to do a little Q and A for the blog. I greatly appreciate him taking time out of his schedule to share his thoughts with us, and I hope you all enjoy his answers as much as I did. The Q and A follows after the jump.
Having gone from pitching in different parts of the country early in your pro career, I imagine Hammons Field has to be a lot different in that there is a pretty rabid base of Cardinal fans already intact. What’s that experience been like?
The fans are the big reason why Springfield is an awesome place to play. The facilities are big league and the town itself is nice, but that being said it would just be an empty fortress without the support we get. The people get their “Red On” and come out in droves for every game no matter what. It just makes every game a new and exiting experience, and I think it really energizes the team. Other places we go in the Texas League are nice, but there is nothing that’s quite like Hammons Field. We have it pretty good.
Beside the fan experience being different, Hammons is also a lot different than Roger Dean as far as the whole hitters park/pitchers park dynamic goes. Does that force you to alter your style at all?
I would like to say no, but I definitely think pitching at Roger Dean stadium for a whole year can coax you into a sense of false security. I don’t think anyone tries to pitch any differently, keep the ball down is a common theme anywhere you play, but sometimes when its a 2-0 count in “The Dean” you can almost dare the batter to hit it out. At Hammons, obviously the wind blows out most of the time. However I think pitching here will prepare me more for the smaller ballpark’s in the bigs. So overall, its all just part of a learning experience, and a real reality check for us pitchers as to whether we are really keeping the ball down, or whether we just think we are. Hammons (and these hitters) will expose you pretty quick.
You really were struggling earlier in the season but have seemed to found a groove as of late. What would you blame the early struggles on, and how are you managing to turn it around?
I was out of my comfort zone. Coming into Spring training I lost a lot of weight from food poisoning. Once I adjusted to that I had a decent spring. Then during the early part of the season, I had a little arm trouble, I didn’t know what AA ball was going to be like, and I was trying to do too much to early. The arm wasn’t that bad I suppose but I had never pitched with my arm the way it was, it threw me out of whack a little and drained my confidence. Since then, the organization has put in some serious work with me. Dyar Miller, Brent Strom, and my everyday pitching coach Bryan Eversgerd have stuck with me and I think I owe a lot to them. I feel like I am now in a place mechanically, mentally, and physically where I have a good chance to succeed. I have a lot of season left, so I am going to keep working hard everyday, and let the results take care of themselves.
Cardinal pitching instructor Brent Strom has received a good bit of ink; seems to be a pretty innovative guy, as he’s really challenged conventional wisdom when it comes to pitching mechanics. What’s your experience working with Brent so far?
Brent Strom is my kind of guy. I actually tend to agree with almost everything he says, and I love his old school mentality. He has worked with me some, and I am anxious to work with him some more as I progress towards St. Louis. He allows us to be individuals, which I feel is exactly what I need. Dominant and Durable is the only mold they are trying to create.
I know you had talked with Derrick Goold at the Post Dispatch and Larry Borowsky at vivaelbirdos.com before about throwing the 2-seamer and the struggles that can come learning how to throw it effectively. I could be wrong, but it seems like the organization has shifted a little from what maybe fans perceive is them sorta “forcing” the sinker on their pitchers to letting them be more “themselves”. Am I off-base?
As far as the sinker goes, I feel that it was a little overblown to begin with. No one is forcing this down anyone’s throat. Obviously as an organization there is a preference for ground ball pitchers, but I don’t think the Cardinals are alone in that preference. There are a variety of ways to get groundballs. The sinker is a pitch that ends up in the low part of the zone often, and I do use it. I use it in contrast with my 4 seam fastball. Both pitches are thrown with various intents, but most of the time I try to keep both pitches down in the zone. I am never going to have a Clayton Mortensen sinker, but it is a weapon that I do like to use, and it has made me a better pitcher.
Is there an extra pressure that you might experience because you are a first round pick, and if so how do you handle that?
I think that pressure in general is just an illusion, but I won’t deny that sometimes you want to “live up” the other people’s expectations for you sometimes. I have finally accepted that it is best to worry about the things I can control and let everything else take care of itself. My expectations are very high for myself, and if I can meet those than I feel I have done my job.
Yeah, he was in the film. Growing up I never really thought anything of it. Other kids would think it was cool that he was an actor, but to me he was just dad. It was beneficial to me that he had a lot of free time to help me become the baseball player that I am today. He put in a lot of work with me over the years, and I owe a lot to him.
What do you for fun? How do you unwind?
I enjoy playing video games, watching movies, swimming. Fortunately for me those things seem pretty popular, so I always have someone to chill with.
Last question-music tastes-what have you been listening to lately?
My musical tastes are pretty broad. Classic Rock is my favorite, but I am a city kid so I like a lot of underground Hip-Hop and definitely nothing that comes from Texas. :laughs:
Ha. I’m with you there, on all fronts.