On the Washington Farm: Prior Pirate, Padre pitcher plying prowess in Syracuse

Ross Ohlendorf, in Triple-A Syracuse, in a similar situation to that of Zach Duke last season. - Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Previously, a prior Pittsburgh Pirate player plying pitching prowess proved positive. Presently, a Princeton product (plus a previous professional Pirates and Padres pitcher) could possibly push past pessimists and provide pitching promise.

SYRACUSE | Previously, a prior Pittsburgh Pirate player plying pitching prowess proved positive.

Presently, a Princeton product (plus a previous professional Pirates and Padres pitcher) could possibly push past pessimists and provide pitching promise.

Ross Ohlendorf went 6 1/3 innings, walked three, and struck out four on Sunday at NBT Bank Stadium in a 13-3 loss to the Durham Bulls. He gave up three earned runs on Sunday, and despite the setback, Ohlendorf is trying to jumpstart his career in Syracuse after going through some rough seasons in Pittsburgh.

It is a similar track to that taken by former Syracuse Chief starter - and Ohlendorf's former big league teammate - Zach Duke.

"He had a rough couple of years, but it worked out well for him here and going forward," Ohlendorf said of Duke. The pair talked about it all during Spring Training. "I haven't been happy with my last two years, but I am feeling really good now and I am pretty excited about this season."

Duke basically restarted his career last season in Syracuse. The 2005 All-Star lost 31 total big league games with the Pirates in 2009-10. He went to Arizona for a season before signing a minor league deal with Washington in April of 2012. All he did last summer was lead the International League in wins and successfully parlay that into a spot in the Nationals' bullpen.

Ohlendorf is in a similar kind of position at the beginning of this season.

After breaking into the bigs with the Yankees in 2007, Ohlendorf pitched alongside Duke in Pittsburgh. Ohlendorf went 11-10 with the Bucs in 2009, but then had a 1-11 year in 2010 with the Pirates. He stayed in Pittsburgh for 2011, but went to San Diego last year and ended up going 4-4 with a 7.77 ERA.

So far this season Ohlendorf is 2-3 with 23 strikeouts in 28 innings. He has given up 24 hits this year and has a 5.46 ERA.

"My arm feels really good. This is the best it has felt in a few years," said Ohlendorf. He was an Operations Research and Financial Engineering major at Princeton during his college days. "I'm hoping to help contribute to the team doing well. We have a lot a talent and some great coaches, this is going to be a good season."

Ohlendorf is certainly his own pitcher even though he is in a similar situation to Duke. The current Chief is right handed, first and foremost, compared to the lefty Duke. Also, he has a swinging arm windup that is best described as "old school."

"I started with (the wind up) this year," Ohlendorf said.

He starts with his hands together, raises them together and then breaks them in an initial arm swing to get his momentum started. His hands come back together as he folds his elbows back over his head ala Nolan Ryan or Bob Feller.

"If it felt uncomfortable, I just wouldn't do it," he said. "I have done similar things in the past, but I don't think I have let my arms swing that much in the past in games, but I have done it before playing catch."

Even though it looks different on the mound, just like last year, a former Pittsburgh starter is trying to get things going again in Syracuse.

Parallel portraits possibly producing premiere pitching.

Ross Ohlendorf windup (via Ben Meyers)

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