"OT," not "OP" gets Votto, after communication gaffe

Tribe manager and pitching coach mix signals

Alex Hooper
July 10, 2018 - 11:50 pm
Jul 10, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Dan Otero (61) holds his head in the dugout after giving up the go-ahead hit to the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at Progressive Field.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Remember those times in grade school when a classmate had the same first name, so you were called by your first name and your last initial?

Remember the time your teacher was calling for the other kid, but it wound up being you who had to face Cincinnati Reds All-Star Joey Votto with the bases loaded in the 9th-inning of a one-run game?

Such was the difference between “O.P.” and “OT” on Tuesday night, being Oliver Perez vs. Dan Otero. After a three-run rally against Tribe closer Cody Allen, and the aforementioned scenario facing them, Manager Terry Francona made the call for the lefty, Perez, to face lefties Votto and Scooter Gennett.

Except he did not.

In a communication breakdown, when Francona told Pitching Coach Carl Willis to phone the bullpen and get “O.P.” warm, Willis heard and asked for Otero. The skipper walked to the mound and signaled with his left arm, but got the righty. Seven pitches later, the Reds had a 6-4 lead.

“That one lands squarely on me,” Francona said. “There’s no getting around it. I got to be responsible for that. When I saw OT coming through the gate – and again, it’s not that I don’t think he can pitch – just not the guy I was expecting. I know Carl’s beating himself up right now, but that one lands on me.”

Francona spoke with a low, defeated voice for the entirety of his post-game interview. Willis looked straight ahead, red-faced en route to grab a beverage before disappearing into the showers for a time prior to his turn with the media.

Both assumed their responsibility for what had happened, which stung a little more after Trevor Bauer spun an eight-inning, three-hit, 12-strikeout gem, all for naught. Even Allen said he took ‘full responsibility’ for the loss after allowing six earned in 2/3 of the 9th.

Perhaps it is on Francona for not becoming more creative with nicknames. At least “O.P.” are Perez’s initials. As another writer pointed out, calling Oliver be “Ollie” is not particularly helpful when Tyler Olson – though on the disabled list – is referred to as “Oly.”

Perhaps the gaffe was on Willis for not double-checking that the righty allowing a 1.101 OPS against lefties in 2018 should be warming up to face the best left-handed hitter of a generation. Though the idea was not completely insane.

“I actually sat down and looked at my matchup sheet. You know, Votto's 0-for-4 off of Otero,” Willis said, adding that he probably should have asked Francona to repeat himself. “You know, it's a groundball guy that we trust. And, quite frankly, heart of hearts, I felt like Cody was going to get out of the situation. But, you know, I made the mistake -- got the wrong guy up. It's not that he can't get the job done, but it probably wasn't the best matchup.”

Votto even admitted post-game that he has trouble seeing the ball out of Otero’s hands, and the small sample size confirmed that. The thoughtlessness that went into overlooking Votto’s 2018 splits – .216/.370/.324 vs. LHP, .332/.454/.507 vs. RHP – was simply too much to explain away.

Perez has not been lights out against Votto in his career either, 4-for-13 with a home run and six RBI, but six strikeouts. Gennett is just 1-for-3. Both Otero and Votto’s splits against lefties each stabilize over the course of their careers, as well.