Dotel keeps sharp despite few opportunities

Dotel keeps sharp despite few opportunities

PITTSBURGH -- Octavio Dotel probably didn't think it would take until July 1 to record 17 saves. But losing streaks of 12 and six games in June kept the Pirates' closer out of action longer than he is used to.

Dotel has been a full-time closer in five of his 12 Major League seasons, and he had not gone six consecutive games between appearances in any of those five seasons until last month. He did not pitch from June 7-12 and, when he finally did take the hill on June 13, he gave up a two-run home run in the eighth inning to blow his third save of the season and help extend his club's slide.

"It's hard sometimes when you have a long time without throwing in tough situations, like a closing role," Dotel said. "And then when you take five, six, seven days without facing guys, it's really hard. But this game is more mentality than physically, and I think I'm just trying to be really, really strong mentality-wise."

Manager John Russell made sure his closer saw action as the streak continued, sending Dotel in to pitch the ninth innings of losses to the White Sox and Indians on June 15 and June 18. Dotel then closed the door on Cleveland the next two days to pick up consecutive saves, but Pittsburgh lost its next six games, sidelining Dotel further.

Dotel came in again to end a loss, Saturday in Oakland, before the Pirates won three of their last four games. He recorded the save in each of those three wins, and he is happy to finally be back in a rhythm.

"Over the years I'm just learning that year by year, every day, you're learning something in this game," Dotel said. "It doesn't matter how many years you can have in this game, you're always going to learn something. Every day, every year you will learn something here in this game."