When Tomo Ohka was a member of the Washington Nationals, pitching coach Randy St. Claire constantly talked about how Ohka's control was outstanding, but he needed to learn to entice hitters to swing at balls out of the strike zone. So now that Ohka is preparing to face the Nationals -- he will start Sunday's game for the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park -- Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux knows what he wants to see.
"What I do see out of him is he's a strike-throwing machine," Maddux said Saturday. "Now, we've just got to focus on throwing quality strikes and expanding the zone a little bit. He's got good enough command that when he does miss, I'd rather see him miss off the plate."
Ohka will be making his sixth start and seventh appearance for the Brewers since the June 10 trade that brought second baseman Junior Spivey to Washington. Spivey is on the disabled list with a broken bone in his right forearm. After going 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA with the Nationals, Ohka is 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA for Milwaukee.
"I'm happy," he said. But Ohka didn't want to discuss his feelings about facing his former teammates. He will match up against the pitcher the Nationals essentially chose over him. Washington claimed right-hander Ryan Drese off waivers from Texas on the day Ohka was traded. Drese has won three of his five starts for the Nationals.
Huppert Is Adjusting to Majors
In Friday night's loss to the Brewers, outfielder Preston Wilson was thrown out at the plate on a potential sacrifice fly, ending the eighth inning. Last Sunday in Philadelphia, pitcher Esteban Loaiza was thrown out at the plate, ending the fifth inning of another loss and keeping outfielder Jose Guillen from a chance to drive in some runs.
Issues such as that have put more of a spotlight on third base coach Dave Huppert, who coached the position for 18 years in the minor leagues, but is in his first year as a major league coach. Huppert said he is trying to adjust.
"I feel like I'm getting more and more comfortable," Huppert said. "I'm getting to know the outfielders' arms a lot more, and learning our guys' speed, who's capable of what."