Since he joined the bullpen nearly three weeks ago, Ross Ohlendorf has performed well. He has a 1.74 ERA in 20 2/3 inning spread over seven games, the majority as a reliever. Before this season, Ohlendorf pitched out of the bullpen 35 times, most recently last year with the San Diego Padres. But Ohlendorf has been mainly a starter in his career, and his move from one-time spot-start hero in June to long reliever had some adjustments.
“I’ve definitely been happy with how I’ve been pitching,” he said after allowing only one hit over four innings of relief on Friday night. “It is different. I’ve relieved some in the past but I’ve mostly started and it is different. It’s nice to have [Craig] Stammen out there who has done it and done really well with it. I kinda talked to him about how he prepares and watched some things and watch how he prepares. I feel like that’s helped. Obviously he’s done an unbelievable job as a reliever the last couple years and it’s nice to be able to have him there. We’re different pitchers but there’s some things to learn from.”
Even in a small sample size, Ohlendorf’s performance has also benefited from an uptick in velocity this season. He has said his arm has felt better this season than previous seasons, his previous injuries finally gone. His old school windup has also helped him feel loose and in a rhythm. His fastball is averaging 92.7 mph this season, up from 90.8 last season. He has struck out 15 batters in 20 2/3 innings and minimized his walks to five. His success in the bullpen has also freed up Stammen from solely a long reliever role.
On Friday, Stephen Strasburg was laboring from the first inning and by the second inning had tossed 66 pitches, so Ohlendorf could see that he was soon going to be called into action. He had, at least, a bit of a heads-up. But one of Ohlendorf’s biggest re-adjustments to the bullpen was learning to get ready quickly again.
“I feel like I’ve been ready every time I’ve gone in,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been able to get loose really quickly. It’s a completely different routine from when I was starting. I guess it would be shorter. Shorter and then just trying to get loose and get my body going in situations where I might be needed to come in later in that inning. And that’s something that watching Stammen has been nice. That’s helped.”