This year during Spring Training, I noted how Dan Otero had been appearing in a lot of 9th innings. Box scores are not available for all spring games, but each of Otero’s final 3 appearances were 9th innings (March 29, March 31, April 1).
Now, it’s not strange at all for somebody other than your closer to be finishing ST games—managers rarely save their closer for 9th innings against AA ballplayers—but, it seemed clear that Terry Francona had a plan for this guy. Some thought he wouldn’t even make the opening day roster. That seemed wrong. Otero finished the exhibition season with a 2.11 GO/AO, which was as telling as anything you’ll ever see in ST.
Now mind you, all of this talk is regarding a guy who was acquired from the Phillies for cash. Not Fred Cash or Norm Cash; dollars. Jerry Sands was DFA’d to make room.
Now keep in mind: I bet you don’t remember Otero pitching for the Phillies. This is because they only had him for roughly six weeks and those six weeks were during the offseason. They claimed him off waivers from Billy Beane’s brilliant A’s on November 3.
The Indians thought Otero’s struggles with Oakland in 2015 were a fluke. Otero seemed to agree. "I don't want to talk about it," Otero said while laughing with Jordan Bastian in March. Bastian:
Otero appealed to the Indians for three reasons: a strong ground-ball rate, elite strike-throwing ability and solid numbers against right-handed batters, especially in the Minors.
The Indians were right to be smitten. Chris Antonetti knows these kind of things. And is right about them a lot.
Otero had no options remaining, which sucked. But not to worry.
Otero started the season really well. But Terry "Tito" Francona didn’t seem to trust him, which angered a smart baseball website called Let’s Go Tribe. But gradually, Otero started to work his way into some higher leverage situations. Sure, some of them were in extra innings when Francona had little choice, but progress is progress.
By the time June rolled along, Otero was finally appearing in games the Indians won, instead of ones they were not. Was Otero still dominating? You bet he was. There was one exception: A july 9th game against Andrew Miller’s Yankees where he was brought in to face the LHB Brett Gardner with the bases loaded. Really strange, but see, the Indians didn’t really have a guy who could get lefties out; he was on the other team at the time. Gardner cleared the bases with a triple. Ugh. Runs charged to Salazar, but ugh.
Otero finished the regular season with a 1.53 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 2.88 xFIP and 1.6 fWAR. He was equally good against lefties, too, despite what I said about how he shouldn’t have faced Brett Gardner!
Otero’s regular season GO/AO? 2.11.
Otero kept being Otero in the postseason. He made 6 appearances for the AL champion Indians and 5 of them were superb; 4 of them were scoreless, 2 of them were hitless. It was the 6th one that was unfortunate. Brought on to get out of a Josh Tomlin bases loaded jam, Otero allowed something even worse than that Gardner triple. Use your imagination. Or don’t. Don’t.
You know what else? He finished a World Series game (7-2 W in game 4) and proved Red Sox fans who thought that the Indians had no good relievers left because of so much Miller/Allen/Shaw usage wrong. He just couldn’t overcome a Hoynes puff-piece, though.