Relief pitcher Tommy Hottovy is sporting a new look in 2011.
And no, I’m not referring to the cheesy black mustache that doesn’t match his hair color.
(Photo courtesy of Ken Babbitt)
“I will say that the color is not 100% natural,” Hottovy said with a laugh. “The problem is that I had some blonde hairs coming in that didn’t look good so I decided to go dark. In Portland we decided to grow mustaches and call it, ‘Mustache May.’ It turned into a pretty big deal when we did it as a fundraiser for the Maine Children’s Cancer Center up there. It’s been awesome. People have really taken to it and I promised that I would keep mine through May as long as I keep getting pledges.”
Hottovy’s more significant new look will not change at the end of May. After using an over-the-top pitching motion for his first seven pro seasons, the 29-year-old lefty is throwing sidearm this year.
(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
The switch has produced dramatic results. Hottovy did not allow a run in spring training and posted a 1.93 ERA in 8 relief appearances with Double-A Portland. That led to a promotion to Pawtucket where Hottovy tossed 2.1 scoreless innings against an all right-handed lineup in Saturday’s 10-2 loss to Scranton/WB.
“I had a really good spring,” Hottovy said. “I didn’t allow any runs and I’ve been able to carry that on. You get to a mindset where you’re having success and seeing what pitches are working for you and you stick with it.
“Coming back from (Tommy John) surgery in 2008, it was a process of trying to find what felt comfortable. I was never really able to get back to where I used to be throwing over the top. I started throwing this way last year and worked on it in the off-season and in spring training and it’s been great.”
(Rich Hill photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Hottovy’s story is remarkably similar to Rich Hill’s. The lefty from Milton, MA has also become a full-time sidewinder this season, and after going through spring training without allowing an earned run, Hill posted a 1.13 ERA in 10 outings for Pawtucket before earning a promotion to Boston. In his first 4 outings for the Red Sox, Hill has pitched 4.2 scoreless innings while holding American League opponents to a .133 average.
“Rich and I got to know each other really well last year,” Hottovy said. “He’s a great guy and we kind of went through the same thing. He was an over-the-top guy and has found a new arm slot – I’m a little lower than he is – but it’s the same concept. It’s exciting for me to see him succeed, because – not to take anything away from him – but I feel like my stuff is as good as his. It excites me to see him do well because that gives me confidence.
“You don’t see a lot of lefty sidearm guys. I’ve received some feedback from people in the Red Sox organization saying that they feel like I’m a 25-year-old pitcher again. After surgery and missing some years, my arm feels great. I feel like I could do this for a long time. I have places where my body used to ache when I threw over the top that I don’t even feel anymore. I feel great and just want to keep rolling and see what happens.”
Hottovy spent the last two months of last season in Pawtucket, but was forced to begin this season back in Portland since the PawSox already had veteran lefties Hill, Hideki Okajima, and Randy Williams on the roster to begin the season. It’s the 6th straight year that Hottovy has spent at least part of the season in Double-A but he says he wasn’t disappointed.
“I was coming into this spring training not guaranteed anything, so I was excited to have an opportunity and to know that they still wanted me in the system,” Hottovy said. “I knew that if I took care of business that I probably wasn’t going to be there for very long. I didn’t mind being there because my goal is not to be in Pawtucket– my goal is to be in the big leagues. So whether I’m in Portland, or Ft. Myers, or here, I’m still working toward that goal.”
So far, everything is looking great.
Except for the mustache.
* * * * *
Saturday’s 10-2 loss to the SWB Yankees was Pawtucket’s 5th in a row as the PawSox fell to 18-18. Pawtucket has scored a total of 6 runs during the 5-game losing streak.
It was a brutal night for starter Kris Johnson who allowed 5 ER in the first inning. Johnson’s ERA rose to 12.63 after 8 outings and International League hitters are batting .410 against him (41-for-100) with 7 HR.
Josh Reddick drove-in both Pawtucket runs with his team-leading 10th HR. Since August 2nd of last year, Reddick has drilled 20 HR in his last 68 Triple-A games. That’s slightly less than half of a 144 game International League season.
The PawSox will look to get back on the winning track on Sunday afternoon as they host the Yankees at 1:05. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 12:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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