PAWTUCKET â€“ Thanks to a pitching tip Ross Ohlendorf picked up from Josh Beckett, the Red Sox may very well have another starting option on their hands.
By his own estimation, Ohlendorf threw â€ś10 or 12â€ť cut fastballs over the course of the six shutout innings he tossed in Pawtucketâ€™s 8-0 win against Lehigh Valley Tuesday afternoon.
A one-time prospect in the Yankeesâ€™ farm system, the 29-year-old Ohlendorf mentioned that it was Beckett who one day in spring training introduced to him the idea of incorporating the cutter, a pitch that he feels has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.
â€śI throw a lot of two-seam fastballs and if youâ€™re able to throw a sinker and a cutter, I think you can be very effective,â€ť said Ohlendorf, who struck out three while walking one as part of his 63-pitch outing. â€śBeckett showed me his grip and I went out and played catch with him the next day and was happy with what I saw.â€ť
Ohlendorf said he deployed the cutter to the first Lehigh Valley hitter in the third inning (a called strike) and again in the fourth (a ball).
â€śNobody put the ball in play,â€ť he said. â€śI was just missing, or it was a strike.â€ť
The Red Sox exercised caution with Ohlendorf during spring training after the Princeton University product was sidelined for much of the 2011 season with shoulder woes. The righty appeared in five Grapefruit League games spanning 11 1/3 innings.
Knowing his medical history, PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler didnâ€™t hesitate when it came time to pull Ohlendorf, who ended up retiring the final eight batters he faced.
â€śThe concern there is to keep him healthy and feeling good so that he can make his starts and continue to get stronger,â€ť Beyeler said. â€śItâ€™s so early in the season that thereâ€™s no need to push anything.â€ť
PawSox catcher Luis Exposito felt that Ohlendorf, â€śshowed good command of all his pitches. He was able to mix it up. It was fun to call a game like that.â€ť
Finally, the PawSox bats showed signs of life. A team that entering Tuesday had scored a league-low 11 runs through five games responded with three home runs as
Pawtucket was able to earn a split of the four-game set against a Lehigh Valley outfit that was responsible from ousting the locals from last seasonâ€™s Governorâ€™s Cup playoffs.
Pawtucket was able to bolster its team batting average from .236 to .256.
After scratching out a run in the third inning after IronPigs catcher Tuffy Gosewisch threw the ball away on a bunt attempt by Pedro Ciriaco, the PawSox broke out the heavy artillery. Home runs by Mauro Gomez, Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks helped break the game open while Exposito made the most of a rare start, clubbing two doubles.
â€śItâ€™s just nice to play, man,â€ť said Exposito, speaking about his situation in reference to ceding playing time to fellow backstop Ryan Lavarnway. â€śItâ€™s exciting.
Just to get the opportunity, youâ€™ve got to make the best of every opportunity I get now. Thatâ€™s the way it is. Thatâ€™s the way it's evolved.â€ť
Gomez and Nava each went deep in the sixth as the PawSox scored five times, a sum that fell one run shy from the teamâ€™s output from the previous three games. The seventh saw Middlebrooks blast a shot to right-center field for his first round tripper of 2012.
â€śTo me it was only a matter of time before the bats came to life,â€ť said Beyeler. â€śWeâ€™ve hit some balls hard but the windâ€™s been blowing in and it seems everythingâ€™s been caught. Today some balls fell and guys kind of broke out a little bit.â€ť
Beyeler gave the following regulars the day off: Jose Iglesias (.071), Che-Hsuan Lin (.071) and Alex Hassan (hitless in 11 at-bats). Lavarnway saw his average dip to .125 after a 0-for-4 showing.
The great experiment that is Lars Anderson playing left field was officially unveiled for public viewing Tuesday - this after the 24-year-old had made 566 starts at first base. Anderson wasnâ€™t really tested, though he did handle a scorching liner sent directly at him in the ninth inning.
Anderson started exploring the possibility of patrolling left during spring training, his curiosity continuing at the onset of Pawtucketâ€™s season. During batting practice heâ€™s been shagging fly balls in an effort to become more familiar with his surroundings.
â€śThe more reps he can get, the better the opportunities heâ€™s going to have,â€ť Beyeler said. â€śItâ€™s a matter of him catching the ball and making a decision on whether to throw it to second or on a ball in the gap. Thereâ€™s also communicating with the outfielders, which he had to do a couple of times.â€ť
In the same token, putting Anderson in left allows the skipper to play Gomez at first.
â€śIt frees up the DH spot so we can get another guy in the lineup,â€ť Beyeler said on a day his club notched a season high in runs and hits (12). â€śWeâ€™ve got a few bats on this team; itâ€™s a matter of how weâ€™re going to get them all in the lineup on a given day.â€ť