When Oakland Athletics pitcher Dan Otero returned to Ransom Everglades recently to be inducted into his alma mater’s Hall of Fame, he asked former prep teammate Thomas Willis to catch him so he could get in some practice.
“Not to me you’re not,” Willis, now a Ransom assistant coach, told Otero. “I’m not catching anything at 90 [mph] that is dropping on me.”
Otero, who played at Duke and South Florida, had a breakthrough season in 2014, using his killer sinkerball to go 8-2 with a 2.28 ERA out of the A’s bullpen.
In 2012, he made the San Francisco Giants’ Opening-Day roster and made his major-league debut on April 7 at age 27.
The Giants went on to win the World Series — but not with Otero. He only pitched 121/3 innings that season — with a 5.48 ERA — and was left off the playoff roster.
“I wanted to be there,” Otero said of the World Series, “but I knew I had to get better.”
Otero’s little brother, Ryan, a fourth-year junior at the University of Miami, knows the feeling.
After a standout career at Ransom in which he played baseball (as a hitter and pitcher), basketball and golf, Ryan has suffered through three frustrating seasons of inactivity at UM.
He redshirted his first season, pitched just 31/3 innings as a freshman and tossed just one-third of an inning last season.
The totality of his college career to date: three years, 32/3 innings and a 12.27 ERA.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Ryan said. “The thought [of transferring] definitely crossed my mind.
“But Miami was always my dream school. I’m not the type of person to give up. Hopefully, I will be rewarded for that.”
Ryan is coming off a much-improved fall season — he led UM in strikeouts (19 in 152/3 innings), compiling a 2.87 ERA with just four walks.
Willis said when he watched Ryan pitch last fall that it reminded him a great deal of Dan Otero. Both are big right-handers. Dan is listed at 6-3, 215 pounds. Ryan is 6-5, 205 pounds. And their pitching forms are nearly identical.
“Even their mannerisms are similar,” Willis said.
However, Dan throws in the 92-93-mph range, and Ryan throws in the mid-to-high 80s, a significant difference.
Another tie that binds is their academic excellence. Dan graduated from Duke with a degree in history. Ryan, who has a 3.55 GPA and arrived at Miami on an academic scholarship, is set to graduate in May with a degree in industrial engineering. If he doesn’t get a shot at pro ball, law school is a possibility.
Over the Christmas holidays, Ryan spent 10 days in Arizona with Dan. The brothers threw every day, and Dan offered critiques to help Ryan get better.
Now that practices have begun for the start of the 2015 season — the opener is Feb.15 against Rutgers — Ryan can’t wait to incorporate what he learned from a successful major-league pitcher.
UM coach Jim Morris said that after ace Andy Suarez, the rest of the rotation spots — two more for the weekend and two for weekday games — are open, and Otero and several others will get their chances to earn those jobs.
“I’m pulling for Ryan,” Morris said. “Whether I’m supposed to or not, I don’t know. But he’s an outstanding student, an outstanding young man — he’s never complained. Those are the guys you root for.”