4/26/2014 9:36 P.M. ET
Confidence, angles key to Ottavino's success
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Rockies' Adam Ottavino finds amusing that a right-handed reliever and his best pitch can have social media cachet.
Earlier this season, a tribute handle, @OttavinosSlider, showed up on Twitter. During his strong inning Friday night, the team's twitter account gave him a hashtag -- #Ottomatic, which happens to have been a nickname he earned as a closer during his collegiate career at Northeastern University.
Ottavino, an Instagram guy himself, isn't bothered by the attention. After all, it's the result of an ERA that was the definition of the empty set through 11 games, the last being a one-strikeout eighth inning in Friday's 5-4, 11-inning victory over the Dodgers.
"It's pretty cool," he said. "Obviously, I've got to keep it up. It's kind of neat."
Ottavino, 28, entered the Rockies' game with the Dodgers on Saturday with 13 strikeouts, which is almost half of his 28 total outs.
As last season progressed, manager Walt Weiss began using Ottavino later in games, mostly against tough right-handed hitters, who have difficulty dealing with his slider's angle and movement. Righties hit .198 against him. However, lefty batters hit .325, which more or less threatened to limit him to specialist duty.
This year, Ottavino, whose father has long worked as an actor in New York, is posting stats that say he can't be typecast. Righties are 4-for-27 (.148), with two of the hits coming in one game. But lefties are 1-for-8 (.125).
"He's made adjustments against left-handed hitters, so if there's a tough lefty sandwiched in between a couple of right-handers, he can go through the lefty to get to the next righty," Weiss said. "He's made some physical adjustments to attacking left-handed hitters."
Ottavino's adjustment involves the uncommon strategy of switching from the third-base side of the rubber, where he works against righties, to the first-base side against lefties. The adjustment resulted from Ottavino studying all of his at-bats against lefties during the offseason.
"It's giving them a little tougher angle," Ottavino said. "And my strategy has been switched up a little. It's worked out against the few lefties I have faced. That was a big goal for me. I killed righties last year, so if I could become respectable against lefties, I could improve over last year."
Ottavino is known for the sudden and big, downward diagonal break on his slider. But his increased dependability is rooted in another pitch.
"My slider is the same as it was, although I feel I use it better," Ottavino said. "But I feel a little stronger this year and my fastball is a little better. I've got a little bit more velocity, a mile or two per hour on average. I also know my strategy better of where to locate it."
Weiss said the increased power is a matter of confidence.
"He's always had the devastating slider, but it's tough to use it when you're in bad counts," Weiss said. "His fastball command and velocity is better. That's a big part of it.
"A couple years ago, before I was here, his velocity was up there. Last year, maybe trying to command it, pitchers will take a little off of it. But he's got velocity and command, and a lot of confidence. When he gets in pitchers' counts, he's a handful."
Arenado lets instincts take over on defense
LOS ANGELES -- Third baseman Nolan Arenado's game-saving diving catch of a Tim Federowicz line drive to end a Dodgers threat in the fourth inning of the Rockies' 5-4, 11-inning victory pleased a large group of family and friends -- well, to an extent.
Arenado grew up in Lake Forest, Calif., where there are plenty of Dodgers fans, including those in his family.
"My closest cousin, he's a huge, huge Dodger fan," Arenado said. "He follows them, like, nonstop. He wants me to have success, but he wants to the Dodgers to win. So we have a little competition, and through messages, we talk a lot of trash about it. But it's been fun.
"In San Diego, there's a lot of family, too, but the Dodger atmosphere gets people going. My family has a lot of Dodger fans."
Arenado, coming off winning a Rawlings Gold Glove as a rookie last season, has kept up the highlight-reel plays that are way more fun for him to perform than to analyze. It seemed as if he knew exactly where the ball would be hit. He seemed to be moving or leaning with the pitch, and was able to take four choppy steps before making the dive.
"Sometimes you just get the feeling the ball's going to come your way," Arenado said. "I guess you just build the instincts. But I try not to overthink. When I overthink when I have the ball, that's when I make the error and get myself in trouble. I try not to analyze things too much. I just do them and hope it works out."
• Weiss said it's unlikely that right-hander Jhoulys Chacin will make his next start on Tuesday for Triple-A Colorado Springs at Memphis. Chacin, who sustained a right shoulder strain at the start of Spring Training and has been gradually working his way back, is determined to be healthy after throwing 80 pitches in his last start.
Weiss said the Rockies haven't come to an official decision, and his thought could change based on what happens in the coming days, but he is leaning toward having Chacin's next start be in the Minors.
• Weiss' effort to keep the right-handed-hitting outfielders sharp resulted in his starting Brandon Barnes, who had a key pinch-hit double Friday, and Drew Stubbs on Saturday, with Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson sitting against Dodgers lefty Paul Maholm.
Blackmon, however, is hitting .398 and has done well against lefty pitching. That means he is a candidate to start the next two games, Sunday against the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu and Monday at Arizona against Wade Miley.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.