Pirates' Dotel happy to be closing again

Veteran will fill ninth-inning role for Pirates this year

jlembo@bradenton.comFebruary 23, 2010 

BRADENTON — Closers don’t come equipped with a safety net, and that’s just the way Octavio Dotel likes it.

He likes jogging out of the bullpen, knowing a game is riding on his right shoulder.

He likes the moment. He likes being involved in the outcome.

Consequently, he likes being a Pittsburgh Pirate.

The 36-year-old will serve as his new team’s closer this season, a role Dotel says he missed during his days as a middle reliever and set-up man.

“After I figured out that I was a good reliever, I wanted to be the main reliever. And the main reliever is the closer,” he said Monday afternoon at Pirate City.

Dotel has the track record. He converted a combined 36 saves in the 2004 season, which he split with the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s, and had 16 for the Astros in 2000.

Though his career was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery in 2005, Dotel had a prolific stint with the Chicago White Sox in 2008 and ’09, when he appeared in a combined 144 games.

Despite the success, Dotel wasn’t very happy.

“I didn’t know when I was going to be pitching in Chicago — that’s one of the things I hate,” he said. “You don’t know when you’re going to be pitching. My whole career, it’s been like, ‘OK, you’re going to throw this inning.’ If something happens, or you’re not doing what you’re supposed to, OK, I understand — take me out of there.”

A closer’s role is much more defined — if a team has a lead of three runs or fewer entering the ninth inning, he’s coming into the game. Of course, some closers are required to pick up more than just three outs, but for the most part, the last inning is their inning.

That’s just the way Dotel, who signed with Pittsburgh in January, wants it.

“In my case, when I came in in the seventh or eighth, I was thinking, ‘OK, if I don’t do it here, we have another chance,’ ’’ he said. “To be a closer, it’s totally different — there’s no (other) chance. You either do it or you don’t.

“Not only do I want to win, but I want to feel that emotion myself. ... I like that situation, I like that moment.”

That’s half the battle, said Pirates manager John Russell.

“He’s got the personality for it. It’s a tough inning to pitch,” he said. “But he’s got the personality, the heart and the drive to do it, and I think he feeds off that a little bit. He’s excited for the opportunity.

“You’ve got to have the stuff, obviously, and he still has that. ... But I know he’s very excited about the opportunity.”

Dotel’s also excited about the new cast around him, including veteran relievers Brendan Donnelly and Javier Lopez, which could make his favorite job with his new team easier.

“The bullpen, in any team, is everything,” he said. “You can probably have the greatest starting pitchers, if but they go seven innings, and then, you don’t know what’s going to happen. The moves the Pirates made this year, I think those were great moves.”

Noteworthy

PIRATES PEP RALLY — The first Pirates Pep Rally takes place 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton. Admission is free, and players will be on hand signing autographs. There will be prizes and games, as well as a live band, and the Bradenton Marauders will unveil their uniforms for their upcoming season.

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