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Adam Ottavino opens up about pitching for both New York teams

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Amazin’ reliever, and former Yankee, Adam Ottavino gets the call for some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby. 

Q: Is there a difference between Yankees fans and Mets fans? 

A: Sure. I think the Yankee fan, the modern Yankee fan, there’s a little bit more of an expectation of perfect play and an All-Star at every position. Whereas I think the Met fan, the expectation isn’t quite as high, it’s more of a level of hope. Like, they’re behind us and they’re hoping something great’s gonna happen. Whereas I think the Yankee fan maybe expects something great to happen, and then gets disappointed when it doesn’t happen. I think the Met fan is a little more on the journey with you, like kind of hoping for a great thing to happen.

Q: How dangerous is Pete Alonso at the plate? 

A: He’s got the most homers since his debut in the big leagues. When you’re facing power hitters, you always have in the back of the mind that you can’t make a mistake to them, and he’s that type of guy when I faced him. And now watching him, I know the feelings that those pitchers have facing him, and it’s really awesome to watch him do his thing. He’s got a special talent of hitting the ball over the wall.

Q: Does he have the same type of fear factor that Aaron Judge has in the batter’s box? That intimidating presence? 

A: I think now he probably does, yeah. I think he’s earned that feeling now. Obviously physically, he’s not as large as Judgie is. Having played with and faced both of them now, I can say that in the box, Aaron Judge is just so large that it’s hard to miss him. He just feels different because he’s so big. There’s other guys around with similar feelings. Pete isn’t quite as big, obviously, tall-wise, from a height perspective. But you know what he’s capable of and you know the power that’s in that bat, so there’s a little bit of an intimidation that will steer you out of the strike zone if you’re not in control of the at-bat. 

Q: Do you think he can challenge or break Judge’s record? 

A: Yes, I do. He’s just got such a knack for hitting the ball out of the park, and he hits ’em in bunches, and he’s off to a great start. It’s a tall task, it’s a crazy amount of homers for anybody to hit, but I do think Pete’s one of the best in the world if not the best in the world at doing that thing, so he’s got a good shot. 

New York Mets relief pitcher Adam Ottavino reacts in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Guardians on May 21, 2023.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Q: He seems to love playing in New York. 

A: Pete’s got a big personality. Pete’s a showman, he’s got a little bit of that vibe to him, a little WWE vibe to him as well. He definitely likes to play it up to the crowd. The attention, I think, it energizes him. It’s really cool to see him just remain himself through it all and kind of be in the right place for him.

Q: How about Francisco Alvarez? 

A: Right away I noticed that he has an elite swing up there, something that’s kind of hard to teach. Short to the ball, incredibly powerful swing. But the thing that I learned about him the most this year is that he’s a sponge. He’s been incredible at getting better each and every day and learning things and retaining information. You give him a little nugget here and there, let’s throw more of this pitch or that pitch or let’s try this location, he doesn’t forget that type of stuff. He gets it right away and makes the adjustment immediately. That type of ability is gonna serve him really well as he goes on. 

Q: How about behind the plate? 

A: Looking at him initially, it’s hard to like predict awesome defense out of him when you first see him, but he’s come a long way. He’s been really good back there, stealing strikes, he’s got a heckuva throwing arm, and he’s learning the game really quickly at this level. His pitch calling has been outstanding this season. I think he’s gonna be a big-time star player. 

Q: Brett Baty? 

A: Baty it was a little more clear to me, Baty like looks the part in every way. He looks like a major league star third baseman to me. Hits the ball really hard, has a short swing. … There’s not a lot of red flags with Baty either. Just a good kid, humble guy, keeps his head down, loves the game, wants to get better, and he’s in the right clubhouse to do that ‘cause he’s got a lot of older guys that are helping him along. He’s gonna be a Met for a while. 

Q: Mark Vientos? 

New York Mets relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) celebrates with catcher Francisco Alvarez (4) after a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in a baseball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
Ottavino celebrates with catcher Francisco Alvarez after a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in April.

A: He’s a good kid, he’s got a good swing, a lot of confidence. I’d just like to see him get more ABs, because it’s hard to judge any hitter on sporadic playing time. He’ll get in there more. 

Q: When your son asks you: “Daddy, what was it like being Max Scherzer’s teammate?”, what will you tell him? 

A: I would just say that Max lives up to his nicknames, the Mad Max, just one of the ultimate competitors in the history of the game. Really smart pitcher, ultra hard working, really good teammate. Love talking the game with Max. I really enjoy watching him perform because he’s able to get himself to a certain emotional level every time out there that’s hard to achieve, and it comes from a lot of internal drive. When you’re talking about the will to win and the will to beat your opponent, he’s the epitome of that. 

Q: He’s making the adjustments that aging pitchers are forced to make. 

A: He’s not gonna let his age slow him down. The game’s gonna have to kill him (laugh), you know? 

Q: Justin Verlander? 

A: Been really impressed with his level of attention to detail in his craft. He obsesses over whatever he’s working on between his starts, and then he’s super locked in on his gameday, and he’s been really gracious, he’s been open with his journey, and he’s been a good help to me already with a couple of things here and there. These guys are Hall of Famers, and they are for a reason, and it’s just really cool to get around ’em and see what you can learn from ’em, and I’m enjoying that process with JV. 

Q: Kodai Senga? 

A: He’s a really hard worker, he’s a freak athlete. Everybody knows about his ghost fork, it’s just a unique pitch, it’s really fun to watch it and kind of try to understand it. 

Q: Describe your emotions when Edwin “Sugar” Diaz went down in the WBC and how much would it mean to get him back? 

A: I just had a sick-to-my stomach feeling because not only is Sugar a great player for our team and means so much, but he’s also a really good friend and a guy I love to compete with it. So I was really hurt in that moment for him, and for the Mets fans and just for everybody who doesn’t get to watch him pitch for a few months ’cause he’s a special, special talent, and last year he had a year that I’d never seen before. I do think getting him back this year would mean a lot because he’s that type a guy that gets the fan base fired up, gets the team fired up, and you know that you have a secret weapon in him. I’ve been saying it all year, I do think he’s gonna come back. Obviously we don’t want to rush him, but I have a good feeling that we’ll hear the trumpets this year. 

Q: David Robertson? 

A: Another guy that I’ve watched for a lot of years and never had the opportunity to be his teammate, and now, sure enough we’re teammates, and I think we’re finding out that we have a lot more in common than maybe we thought beforehand. It’s just nice to see how he goes about his business and how he’s going about the process of still feeling young out there even though we’re on the older side of the game. 

Q: He looks comfortable in the closer role. 

A: Maybe he’s got like 150 or something saves, so he’s got plenty of experience doing that. But he’s also really good coming in in other roles and he’s flexible, and kind of sees the game the way I do a lot, and not afraid to go in in any situation. 

Q: You embrace closing too, don’t you? 

A: Totally, yeah, of course. I like all the roles in the bullpen because I feel like you can affect the game in any game that you pitch in any role that you’re in. Obviously in that ninth inning, you get to kind of put the nail in the coffin at the end of the game of the other team, and that’s a good feeling. But it’s not something I’ve ever chased. 

Adam Ottavino pitched with the Yankees before the Mets.
Adam Ottavino pitched with the Yankees before the Mets.

Q: Are there any similarities between Buck Showalter and Aaron Boone? 

A: Well, they’re both great guys, that’s the first thing. I have a good relationship with both of them. Booney is a really good communicator, I think Buck’s pretty good as well. They both do a great job talking to the media, protecting their guys, giving you that feeling of that they’re with you all the time — which I’ve had managers in my career where maybe you can’t say that about. But both of those guys do a good job of making you feel like they’re behind you, and they really care about you as a person as well as a player. They’re both really smart. It’s hard to contrast ’em, because they do have a little bit of a different style at times but overall, they’re two of the better guys I’ve ever played for. 

Q: Do you think Buck is worth a few wins in the dugout? 

A: Sure. Absolutely. It’s so hard to quantify that stuff, but Buck is a master at seeing the big picture. And I think he does a great job with our team of moving the pieces around, keeping us fresh, and that sort of foresight looking at things and getting ahead of things, that definitely leads to more wins in the long haul. 

Q: What’s the state of your slider these days? 

A: Not great. Not great. Not my best slider year to this point. I’m not worried about it though. That’s my bread and butter. It’s doing fine, it’s not doing bad, but it could be better, and working on that every day. 

Q: The Mets Hall of Fame inductees/honorees on Saturday: let’s start with Al Leiter. 

A: I know him well, I know him personally. We’re friends, and I watched him growing up. I came to some of his starts (laugh). I’ve always been fascinated by him. Had his baseball card growing up, and I know he started with the Yankees, ended up having a long career, played a long time with the Mets and other teams, [Rockies, Red Sox], Marlins … pitched Game 7 of the [1997] World Series. To me, he’s a legendary pitcher and somebody that I’ve always enjoyed talking the game with and picking his brain. 

Mets great Al Leiter speaks to the crowd during the Mets Hall of Fame inductees.
Mets great Al Leiter speaks to the crowd during a ceremony on June 3, 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Q: Howard Johnson? 

A: Hojo, somebody that I was aware of growing up, but I feel like his era was ending like right as I was starting to tune in, so I know he was a really good hitter and all that, but I don’t feel like I have s great feel for his game. 

Q: Howie Rose? 

A: If you listen to Mets games, you know who Howie Rose is. He’s been doing it for a long time, and feels like a fabric of the team, really. 

Q: Gary Cohen? 

A: Same deal. Both of them have been at it for a long time and they’re awesome at what they do. The fan base has such s big connection with them, as well as Keith [Hernandez] and Ron [Darling] now. I just think there’s something to be said for that type of continuity in those booths over the years and really feels like they’re a big part of the Mets franchise. 

Q: Jay Horwitz? 

A: He’s somebody that all the old players, that’s one of the first people they want to see when come to the ballpark. They want to see if Jay’s around, see if they can’t give him some crap here and there and just shoot it with him a little bit. He’s been a staple of the Mets for a really long time. 

Q: How hungry are you to get a World Series championship ring? 

A: I’ve never won anything in any level. I want to really badly, and I’m hoping that I get that opportunity. It’s a dream of mine, especially in New York, to be on one of those floats going down … and ticker tape, the whole deal. I’m trying to take care of what’s in front of us first, which is get in the playoffs and getting ourselves another chance. 

Q: Have you ever been at a parade? 

A: Yes. I was at Yankees parade after they won in ’96. So I was pretty little. But I remember it was awesome. 

Q: You and your dad? 

A: My mom, too. I think we might have went with a friend, too. Think we skipped school, went, and we were way downtown. I just remember it was a really cool energy and just really exciting. 

Ottavino is hoping to win a long-awaited World Series title.
Ottavino is hoping to win a long-awaited World Series title.
Robert Sabo for NY Post

Q: And ever since then, you’ve been dreaming about being in a parade yourself. 

A: Yes. Obviously, you think about the moment of winning it, and you think of maybe I can be on the mound to get that last out, or maybe storming the field if you’re not on the mound, and you think of all those thoughts. But to me, that parade has always been something that I’ve dreamed of. 

Q: Tell me exactly what you see at the parade. 

A: I see coming down … I guess it’s Broadway, right? … the ticker tape in the air … a million fans … kind of a cold day … wearing like a Mets jacket, and just soaking it in. Feeling what it means to the fans, because that’s really what it’s all about. 

Q: Do you remember what it sounded like? 

A: There was so much joy in the crowd … so much happiness … everybody was so excited to get a glimpse of the players, and the trophy, and all that sort of stuff. 

Q: Is this Mets team a championship team? 

A: It’s just impossible to tell right now, but I like the group that we have. I think we’re gonna be in the hunt to get in, and once we’re in I love our chances ’cause we have high-end starting pitching. 

Q: You were at the 2015 Mets-Royals World Series. What sense did you get for what New York would be like if the Mets made it back to the Series? 

A: I already know. Mets fans are great fans, and they’re starved to get another championship since ’86. That was the latest opportunity that the organization has had in the World Series … atmosphere was great, and it was great here last year in the playoffs too. Really hope we can make that happen. 

The Mets fell in the 2015 World Series to the Royals in five games.
The Mets fell in the 2015 World Series to the Royals in five games.

Q: What do you think of the pitch clock? 

A: I gave it like a 4 out of 5. It’s definitely doing what they want for the most part. There’s only three circumstances that I don’t like it … four I guess. The first is I think it’s a little tough for the hitters to be engaged at 8 seconds. So it ends up being like a 7-second hit clock, which to me is like a little crazy for the hitters, so I feel a little bad for them in that way. The other ways I don’t like it is in between innings, you gotta throw the ball before 30 seconds on the clock, and I just feel like that speeds you up a little bit, and that’s like the time when you’re supposed to be getting loose, so I don’t think that that’s necessarily the smartest way to go about it for injuries. The other thing is if you’re looking for a certain pitch and the catcher’s taking a while to get to that pitch, then you might run out of time, which is how I had my first violation the other day. And if you’re having a really tough inning, you can’t get a breather, you just have to keep going, and that can be tricky. Overall, it’s obvious that it’s been pretty good for the game. 

Q: You were with the Rockies when the Aurora, Colo., shooting tragedy occurred. 

A: I just remember that it was scary, and that it kind of didn’t make you want to go to the movie theater for a little while. That one took place at a movie theater. Obviously stuff like that you never want to see happen, and it happens entirely too often. 

Q: Where were you on 9/11? 

A: I was in Brooklyn at school, between first period and second period. I remember hearing that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. And I remember thinking, “That was a pretty bad mistake by that pilot, not knowing that it had been a hijacking situation at the moment. And then while we were in the next class, our class kind of got let go, and we all got brought into the gym, in the library, and we kind of got informed with what was going on. There was limited cell service, so it was hard to get in touch with a lot of people. I was eventually able to get in touch with my dad and my mom, and they let me walk home. I just remember worrying about some of my classmates ’cause they had parents that worked in the area, and just not knowing what was gonna happen, and kind of being out of school for a week or so. It was just a very surreal situation. 

Q: Who plays you in the Adam Ottavino life story? 

A: That’s a good question. Maybe Ashton Kutcher. Had an old family friend that used to call me Kelso. He thought I looked like him and that was his name on “That ’70s Show” (smile), so I’m just gonna pick that … yeah, kind of a goofy, taller guy. 

Q: What would be a good movie title? 

A: “Nine Lives” or something like that. I’ve been on the edge of baseball death for a long time, and find a way to survive (laugh) and keep going. It’s kind of awesome and amazing that I’m still going, and hope to keep going for a while longer. 

Q: How much longer? 

A: I want to play until I’m not good or I’m not physically the same. Right now I feel good as ever. I don’t feel like I’m slowing down quite yet, feel like I still have a little room to get better. I really enjoy playing. I’m gonna try to keep going at least until I’m 40, and then I guess we’ll be year to year after that. 

Q: Biggest obstacle? 

A: I would say my minor league time with the Cardinals. I just didn’t develop very well the way I wanted to. They had me change my delivery during my first season there, and I battled mechanical things for 2 ¹/₂ years, which affected my performance, which in turn affected my confidence, and it was all kind of a snowball. And there was a time there where I was in Double-A where I thought maybe I would never make it to the big leagues. Like I said, nine lives, that was probably the first time where I was knocking on death’s door in baseball. Luckily I was able to pull myself out of that, and get to Colorado and start to establish myself. It prepared me in a lot of ways to deal with more adversity as I went forward, but it was really hard to go through at the time. 

Q: How did you pull yourself out of it? 

A: I finally started coaching myself, basically. Before I was kind of going off of the suggestion of others, and kind of not sticking with any one process, I was kind of bouncing back and forth between different adjustments all the time. I was very internally focused. I wasn’t playing the game out there, I was focused on mechanics and things that don’t allow you to play free. I refigured out who I was as a pitcher on my own. And from there, I was able to kind of sharpen that with the help of others. The mindset of falling in love with the process more so than with results, and playing free and being present out there on the mound, and not thinking about negative consequences and things of that nature all definitely helped. 

Q: Describe the 2000 World Series, when you were a Yankees fan. 

A: The 2000 World Series was more of a relief. You did not want to lose to the Mets because then you were gonna catch a lot of flak from your friends that were Mets fans. Bernie [Williams] is my guy, so it was cool that he caught the last out and everything. The Yankees were such a dynasty, and I think our fragile egos as Yankee fans were sort of just more hoping not to lose than to win, if that makes sense. 

Q: What was your reaction when Roger Clemens threw the jagged end of the bat toward Mike Piazza? 

A: I didn’t know what was going on. That was crazy. It definitely seemed insane to throw a broken bat (laugh) towards a guy, and then his excuse was weird, that he thought it was the ball. So you’re throwing the ball out of play? 

New York Yankees and New York Mets players confront one another on the field after Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens (R) threw a piece of  broken bat at Mets catcher Mike Piazza (L front) as he ran to first base during the first inning of the Second Game of the World Seriesat Yankee Stadium  in New York City 22 October 2000.
New York Yankees and New York Mets players confront one another on the field after Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens (R) threw a piece of a broken bat at Mets catcher Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series.
AFP via Getty Images

Q: Were you surprised Piazza didn’t charge him? 

A: Not really, because Roger looked like he was foaming at the mouth with rage (smile), so I don’t think I woulda went out there either (laugh). 

Q: What are those Subway Series games against the Yankees or against the Mets like? 

A: They’re just really fun. Obviously it’s something that catches the attention of the city when they’re going on, and there’s so much energy in the ballpark. It’s just really cool playing games like that. 

Q: Congratulations on the birth of your first son, Archer Holden, in April. 

A: I would have been happy having a third girl, that wouldn’t have been a problem, I love being a girl dad. He’s been awesome, he’s fit right in with the family, he’s been pretty chill so far, sleeping at night, and the girls [Oakley and Bradley Snow] love him. We’re excited to see his personality come out. 

Q: Describe your wife Brette. 

A: She’s the best, she doesn’t ever tell me that she doesn’t want me to keep playing, she loves that I’m still living my dream, and she’s proud of me all the time. She could be saving the world and doing a lot of different things herself, but she’s put a lot of that stuff on hold for me to be still playing baseball. She’s the best mom, best wife I could ever want. 

Q: Your father was an actor. Would you rather him be a ballplayer or an actor? 

A: Both tough choices there. I don’t know, we’re gonna see what he’s into, and we’ll go ahead and attack that. Ballplayer, at least I know a lot about the profession. Acting, I feel like even if you think you know it, you don’t know it. Never know what they’re looking for. 

Q: You’re OK with him not being a Yankees fan growing up? 

A: Oh yeah, yeah, that’s fine. He can be a fan of whoever he wants to be. 

Q: If he does play baseball, would you want him to be a pitcher? 

A: I don’t think so. I think position player. I just think pitching is … very stressful. Pitching is more of a game of success than hitting is, and with that comes a little bit of a different pressure, like you’re always expected to do the job as a pitcher, and so every time you do fail, it feels a little more significant. Like if a hitter goes 0-for-4, feel like they can turn the page pretty quickly to the next day. It takes a number of those games for that to start snowballing and festering, but I think as a pitcher, it’s a little harder to deal with the failure maybe.

Q: How neat would it be for you if the Mets were in the World Series and the Yankees were on the other side? 

A: Last year I thought it could be fate that that could happen. But it would be great, be really exciting. Obviously I still have a lot of friends over there, and I like a lot of those guys. But it would be special to win it as a Met, and if we won a Subway Series, obviously that would be a little more special.

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