Mets’ Adam Ottavino using past London Series experience to his advantage ahead of matchup with Phillies

LONDON, UK -- As the Mets prepare for their two-game series with the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in London, international play is a unique experience for most of the players. 

Saturday’s scheduled starting pitcher Sean Manaea and first baseman Pete Alonso spoke with the media on Friday about the challenges of acclimating to the five-hour time difference and the demands of long-distance travel.

But for reliever Adam Ottavino, this is something he’s experienced before. The veteran right-hander was with the Yankees back in 2019 when they took part in the first-ever London Series against the Boston Red Sox, which was also hosted at the London Stadium.

That weekend was “like a blur” for Ottavino, but he recalls enjoying the experience, especially since he pitched well and his team won both games. This time around, he said he’s at least been able to give some of his teammates some idea of what to expect, although he acknowledged that everyone will deal with the challenges in a different way.

The team has been advising the players on the travel logistics and when best to eat and sleep to minimize the levels of disruption, and while the likes of Alonso and Manaea acknowledged being tired, they all seemed to be taking the view that dealing with the grind of the day-to-day is part of the process and they embrace the challenge of overcoming this to perform as well as possible on gameday.

Ottavino’s 2019 experience was made even more unique by the fact that the ball was flying out of the London Stadium, which was originally built for the 2012 Olympics and is now home to the English Premier League’s West Ham United. The teams combined for 50 runs over the two games, with the first game lasting almost five hours, and the first inning of that meeting lasting 58 minutes as both teams scored six times.

Despite this, Ottavino was one of the few pitchers who was able to keep the ball in the ballpark, as he appeared in both games and went three scoreless innings.

In that respect, he said that having played in Colorado had perhaps prepared him for that kind of environment, although he also noted that as a general rule, he wouldn’t change his approach based on how the ball seemed to be carrying and would instead remain focused on who he was facing and getting outs.

While some pitchers might be relieved to learn that the field has since been re-configured with the fences moved back in some places, and that last year’s London Series games were much lower scoring as a result, Ottavino cautioned that it’s still not a particularly pitcher-friendly ballpark. He noted that the infields are fast and there’s a lot more room for the outfielders to cover now that the fences have been moved back.

And Ottavino isn’t the only Met to have experienced baseball in London before.

His current teammate J.D. Martinez was with the Red Sox back in 2019, so he also played in those wild London Series games too, and thrived as he went 6-for-9 with a home run. The slugger was able to be a useful asset for his teammates in a different way on Friday morning, serving as a tour guide as he and some of the others visited Buckingham Palace.

While multiple Mets players praised how well the team has prepared them to be ready to go for the weekend’s games, Ottavino recalled that the effects of the long-distance travel hit even harder on his return stateside the previous time, so the Mets have a grueling few days ahead of them.

They’re embracing the challenge as a group, though, and are excited to bring baseball to an international audience.