For better or worse Tommy Hottovy has returned to New England, but as has been the case throughout his career in professional baseball the left-handed reliever is putting on his best face and tackling the challenge head on.
Having signed with Kansas City as a free agent following the 2011 season, Hottovy started the 2012 campaign with the Triple-A Omaha Storm where he was a Pacific Coast League All-Star, eventually earning his second tour of duty in the big leagues where he posted a 2.89 ERA over 9 1/3 innings of relief work.
He soon found himself a wanted man when the Texas Rangers traded for him in November of last year, but the signing of Lance Berkman forced the team to designate Hottovy for assignment where he was snatched off the waiver wire by Toronto.
With a full-house of a pitching staff the Blue Jays were also forced to designate Hottovy, but this time he cleared waivers and ultimately landed with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
It’s the first time since early in the 2011 season, while with the Portland Sea Dogs, that Hottovy has been back in Double-A.
“It’s just one of those things where [the Blue Jays organization] has a lot of guys here this year,” said Hottovy of his current situation. “There are 26 guys in Triple-A (Buffalo) and one guy on the DL. There is only one guy there who hasn’t been in the big leagues and twenty-four guys have more big league time than I do.”
Included in that group are both left-handed relievers on the Bisons roster, Alex Hinshaw (74 innings) and another former Red Sox farmhand Juan Perez (27 2/3 innings).
Yet Hottovy, who has 13 1/3 big league innings under his belt, knows that he has the stuff to be a big league pitcher and he won’t allow any traffic to deter him.
“My goal this year is not to be in Buffalo, my goal is to be in the big leagues,” said Hottovy. “With the Blue Jays organization, they want to win now, and if somebody up there is struggling they’re not going to hesitate to take anybody out.
“They’ve basically said; Double-A, Triple-A, it’s not going to matter. It’s who is going to be pitching well at the time that [they] need somebody.”
Not far south from where Hottovy will start his 2013 season is an old friend in a similar situation, as former battery mate Ryan Lavarnway gears up to start the year in Triple-A Pawtucket after finishing the season in Boston.
“Once you’ve had a taste of it, I think it brings a new perspective in coming back to the Minor Leagues,” said Lavarnway. 'You kind of see what’s important and what’s not and you worry less about the little things and more about just taking care of business.”
Hottovy echoed the sentiment of his former catcher.
“[I want to] come here and not lose sight of what’s important and that’s going out and working hard every day,” he said. “I’m still not where I want to be. That’s the mindset you kind of have to take and keep plugging away. That’s the goal of all of us.”
“He is a very good player and I think he has the stuff to pitch at the Major League level,” added Lavarnway of Hottovy. “He’s got great stuff. He kind of took the long route to the big leagues, longer than anyone really wants to, but he preserved.”
It took Hottovy eight long seasons in the Red Sox system before he would get his big break, which came on June 3rd, 2011, a month before his 30th birthday.
“When you grow up and come through an organization for eight years and you get to make your debut at Fenway Park in front of 30,000 fans, it’s pretty special,” said Hottovy reflecting on his time in the Red Sox organization.
“The love for the Red Sox from the fans in this area is just unbelievable and to be a part of that…is special. I definitely have a lot of love for the people up here and a lot of great memories and relationships.”
The Fisher Cats don’t visit Portland - a place where he called home for parts of six seasons – until May 20th, but if Hottovy still happens to be on the New Hampshire roster at the time you can expect that the fans at Hadlock Field will be quick to return the love.
“I spent my whole career up here [in New England],” said Hottovy who played parts of his first eight pro seasons in Lowell, Portland, Pawtucket and Boston. “Last year was pretty neat because I’m from Kansas City and I was playing in Omaha two hours away.
“Now I’m back to where I’ve been quite a bit. I’m definitely familiar [with the region] and have a lot of family and friends and people I’ve met over the years. That definitely makes things easier with the transition.”
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