At face value, it would have been impossible to know that Pawtucket Red Sox right-hander Ross Ohlendorf had missed the bulk of the 2011 season (when he was with Pittsburgh) because of a strained right shoulder posterior muscle.
But that didn’t make the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs feel any better after Ohlendorf blanked them for six innings as Pawtucket cruised to an 8-0 victory Tuesday afternoon at McCoy Stadium.
Ohlendorf, who signed a minor league free agent contract with Boston on February 15, allowed two singles (one was a blooper), issued one walk and fanned three in his first start of the season. In addition he threw 42 of 63 pitches for strikes and faced only one batter over the minimum.
“These veteran guys have done it before and they know what their bodies feel like,” said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. “I would think he knows himself pretty well. Once he feels good, he can go out there and execute some pitches.
“It’s kind of the first time we’ve really seen him throw much. We were looking forward to seeing him go out there and work. He threw strikes. He pounded the zone. To get these guys out, you’ve got to have some stuff and he showed some quality stuff.”
Because Ohlendorf missed so much time last season, the organization is playing it cautious and limiting his pitch count.
“You keep building him (up),” Beyeler said. “He was very efficient. We probably could have sent him back out if we needed to. But the concern here is keeping him healthy and feeling good so he can make his starts and continue to get stronger.
“Early in the season, there isn’t a need to push anything.”
Ohlendorf, for his part, agreed with his manager.
“I was a reliever in most of spring training,” said Ohlendorf, who initially was drafted by the Yankees, then was traded to Pittsburgh in 2008 as part of a deal for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady . “I had not thrown four innings yet. As the season progresses, I think I’ll pitch deeper into games.
“It’s a matter of building up my arm strength.”
What was most impressive about Ohlendorf was his ability to throw strikes – and groundballs.
Twice the Iron Pigs grounded into double plays which snuffed out potential threats.
“I felt good through spring training,” he said. “I had a couple innings in spring training where I lost command a little bit. But today I felt I was able to maintain it the whole time.
“I threw a lot of fastballs. I felt like my fastball command was really good. I’m working on a cutter and I threw a lot today and was happy with it. I threw it to both lefties and righties.”
What the PawSox threw at the Iron Pigs was their most impressive offensive performance of the season.
Pawtucket led 1-0 entering the sixth when Raul Valdes relieved starter David Bush.
By the time the inning ended, Pawtucket had hung five runs on the board as Mauro Gomez belted a two-run homer and Daniel Nava crushed a three-run shot.
Rookie Will Middlebrooks ended the carnage when he smashed a solo homer in the eighth off Jeremy Horst.
“It was nice to see the bats come around,” said Beyeler. “To me, it was just a matter of time. We have too many good hitters and players.
“We’ve hit some balls hard and driven some balls. The wind has been blowing in since we’ve been here. Most of the games have been low-scoring games. But it seems like a lot of balls we’ve hit have been caught. Today, we hit some a little harder and the guys kind of broke out a little bit.”