What to Watch for: 7.26.13 – Game 2
New York Mets (46-53) vs. Washington Nationals (49-54)
RHP Matt Harvey (8-2, 2.23) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.03)
NATIONALS GAME 2 LINEUP:
1. Span CF
2. Rendon 2B
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Werth RF
6. Desmond SS
7. Lombardozzi LF
8. Ramos C
9. Ohlendorf RHP
* * *
Don’t let that windup fool you.
Ross Ohlendorf’s delivery has been described as “old-school.” Sure, it’s a swinging, kicking windup that hearkens back to baseball’s bygone times. And, yeah, it might betray a little vintage sensibility.
Still, the Nationals right-hander is hardly stuck in the past. In fact, that retro motion might be more a sign of progress than anything else.
The fact that the motion is reminiscent of legends like Bob Feller “wasn’t a motivation at all,” Ohlendorf said. “I knew that they used to do it…I’ve liked it a lot. I feel like it’s helped me pitch well.”
Ohlendorf has pitched so well out of the Nationals bullpen that he’ll take that swinging style onto the mound with him today as he makes his second big league start of the season. His presence on the Major League roster was meant to be short-lived, but after an impressive spot start in Colorado while Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg were on the Disabled List in June, manager Davey Johnson knew he had to find a way to keep Ohlendorf around.
He might have his pitching motion to thank for that.
A veteran of seven Major League seasons, Ohlendorf switched to the vintage delivery method this year, though he can’t pinpoint exactly when he made the change. Starting with his hands together, he raises them slightly before swinging his arms behind his back with a step back on his left leg. His hands meet again once more when he finally grips the ball from his mitt. His elbows fold in, and then, stepping forward on his left foot with all that momentum, he lets it fly.
“It helps me, gives me rhythm and it helps me stay loose and the ball has been coming out well pitching that way,” he said after his Washington debut.
So far, it seems to be working for him. After struggling over his last three seasons with Pittsburgh (2010-11) and San Diego (2012) and battling injuries, Ohlendorf has posted some impressive numbers in eight appearances with the Nats. After that initial win at Coors Field, the Princeton graduate has provided solid innings in long relief with a 2-0 record and a 2.03 ERA to show for it. He’s recorded 21 punch outs to just six walks.
His velocity is also spiking. Throughout his career, Ohlendorf’s fastball has averaged 90.8 mph and he hasn’t hit the upper 90s in a few seasons. This year, he’s averaging 92.6 mph, and hit 97 on the gun in Sunday’s relief appearance against the Dodgers. That’s helped in coming out of the bullpen. Accustomed to starting ballgames — he’s had 74 starts in his 116 Major League appearances —Ohlendorf says his location isn’t as sharp as if he’d warmed up to start the game.
“My command isn’t as good necessarily right away for an inning or so because I’m throwing hard,” Ohlendorf said. “But as I’ve kind of eased in to the later innings of a game, my command has gotten sharper and I haven’t needed to throw as hard.
“I feel like my command is usually sharper starting. I think it’s a little more difficult to have command right away out of the bullpen.”
With so much working in his favor these days, Ohlendorf can expect to be a more permanent fixture among the Nationals stable of arms. That’s what Johnson had in mind when he refused to send him back to Syracuse.
Now that the novelty of Ohlendorf’s windup has worn off, his impressive numbers have instead begun to define his year with the Nationals.