Reliever Otero has degrees in history, accuracy

March 2, 2012, 10:52 pm
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Giants right-hander Dan Otero wants youto know something.When he plays golf, he brings two extra sleeves of balls. Hecold-tops his drives, skulls his chip shots and four-putts his way into theclubhouse.
Lies, all lies.Cmon, Otero said. You cant let everyone know.Oteros minor league coaches and teammates already know.I usually bet when I play golf, said Bert Bradley, theGiants organizational pitching instructor. I didnt bet with him.Yes, Otero is a scratch golfer. But its his accuracy on themound that could lead him to factor into the Giants plans at some point thisseason.
He throws strikes, Bradley said. His location is as goodas anybody Ive ever had.Otero turned 27 on the day the Giants held their firstworkout two weeks ago. So hes not exactly the young hotshot prospect in campthis spring. But his minor league numbers are dazzling enough:In five seasons, he has a 1.90 ERA. He has thrown 213innings and walked just 30 batters. Six of those were intentional.Everything he does is what you try to teach, Bradley said.He gets ahead. He changes speeds. He goes after people. He pitches inside. Hejust knows how to pitch, and he controls everything. He is a smart controlpitcher.How smart? Well, Otero played baseball at Duke University.When he decided to transfer to South Florida after his junior year, hedalready graduated. His degree is in history, with a concentration in Caribbeanstudies.The team wasnt very good, but being in the ACC, I got topitch against Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Wieters, Ryan Braun Otero said. Facingthose kinds of hitters helped me grow as a pitcher.The South Florida move turned out to be a smart play, too. Oterowasnt drafted as a junior but he pitched well for the Bulls and the Giantsspent a 21st-round pick on him in 2007. Otero dominated from theget-go and surprisingly took to the closer role when it was offered to him.In July of 09, he was cruising along with a 1.15 ERA in 39games for Double-A Connecticut no home runs allowed, either when he feltsomething pop in his elbow.I tried to throw another pitch and it went 50 feet, hesaid.Otero needed Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his medialcollateral ligament. He wasnt a first-round pick and he threw 87 mph. He wassmart enough to know the rest.Oh, absolutely, definitely, it goes through your mind thatthis is it, he said. But I did the rehab and I came back knowing Id have tostart all over again.It was tough. But it had its perks. I got my arm stronger.Now that were past 18 months, I can start to see extra life again.Otero is throwing at nearer to 90-91 mph and can hump up to92 when needed. Hes getting the sinking action back on his two-seam fastball.His cutter and changeup have become dependable pitches. And hes working withBradley to get more depth on a slider that he tries to throw at two speeds.After missing most of 2010, Otero posted a 1.42 ERA atDouble-A Richmond last season. Not only did he earn a promotion to Triple-AFresno, but he was used as the Grizzlies closer, too. Following the season, he wasa surprise addition to the 40-man roster a move designed to protect him frombeing taken in the Rule 5 draft.Being on the 40-man also clears the way for Otero to be calledup when the Giants need an extra arm. And manager Bruce Bochy likes pitcherswho throw strikes.I dont try to miss bats, Otero said. Just the barrel.Otero grew up on a golf course near Miami and spent plentyof afternoons sneaking in a few holes. He said swinging a golf club is similarto repeating a delivery, especially because of the way the hips trigger therest of the body.A few days ago, he got together a foursome with minor leaguepitchers Matt Yourkin, Heath Hembree and former Giants prospect Clayton Tanner,who is now in the Reds organization. They paid out for sand saves and played closest-to-the-pinon par 3s.But nothing straight up. The Giants know better than to betagainst Dan Otero.

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