Ottavino hopes to keep spot on staff within grasp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Adam Ottavino caught the Rockies' eye with a strong performance in a relief role. This spring, he decided not to stray far from the Rockies' sight.

Last season, Ottavino was in contact with officials for the Italian team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. But Ottavino, who went 5-1 with a 4.56 ERA in 53 relief appearances, thought better of signing up for periodic absences from Rockies Spring Training camp.

"I can't rest on what I did last year," Ottavino said. "Even though I did OK, I could have done better. There are always people pushing, other people coming. I wanted to make sure I had my spot, make sure I have a good year. This is a very important year for me. There were just too many variables involved."

Ottavino, 27, was a Cardinals first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, but before the Rockies claimed him off waivers last season, his only Major League experience was five games (three starts) for the Cardinals in 2010. Ottavino found a home in the Rockies' hybrid relief role, which asks a pitcher to face as few as one batter or pitch multiple innings depending on the situation.

Ideally, the Rockies will have three such pitchers when the season opens. They've brought in veteran Miguel Batista, who broke into the Majors in 1992 and if he makes the Rockies will be with his 13th team (12th if you count the Expos and the Nationals as one). Lefty Josh Outman is in the competition for the rotation, but is viewed as a hybrid option. Competitors for starting rotation spots could end up in the mix for the role.

Ottavino believes he can not only hold his spot, but advance as a pitcher.

"It's utilizing my split-changeup more and commanding my fastball more consistently," he said. "The games I did, I thrived and had success. The games when I didn't, I had a little bit more trouble because I became more of a breaking ball pitcher."