Hot stove: Pirates' Ohlendorf hopes to learn from 2010 struggles

Ohlendorf hopes to learn from struggles in 2010

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As Piratesfest, the unofficial kickoff to the 2011 Pirates' season, was taking place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this weekend, right-handed starting pitcher Ross Ohlendorf was asked -- as he has been more than a few times -- to glance back at last season.

Ohlendorf started 21 games, but he made more trips to the disabled list (two) than he earned victories (one).

"It wasn't a very fun season in a lot of ways," he said.

There were lessons to be extracted from a season in which he went 1-11 with a 4.07 ERA and struck out 79 batters and walked 44 in 1081/3 innings.

Certainly, Ohlendorf, who had a back injury early in the season and a shoulder injury later, can make a case that his record was a tremendous misrepresentation.

After all, in a stretch through the heart of the season (six starts from June 27-July 28), he worked at least six innings in four outings while giving up just 19 hits in those games.

And what did he have to show for it? One win, two hard-luck losses and three games with no decisions.

So what did Ohlendorf learn from last season that can be applied to this year?

"I don't forget the whole season," he said. "I made a lot of improvements and learned a lot. I need to continue to build on that.

"The last two months before I got hurt is the best I have pitched before. I want to remember the things I did to allow me to pitch well during that stretch ... I don't dwell on the negative."

As for that major muscle strain in the back of his right shoulder in late August ... it did not require surgery, but shut him down for the rest of the season.

"I am fully recovered and feeling great," Ohlendorf said. "My throwing, right now, is significantly better than it was a year ago at this time.

"I didn't have a very good spring training [last year] and I feel like I will be much stronger out of the gate [this season]."

The right fit

As pitcher Kevin Correia sat quietly and away from the crowd in a back room Friday, he was asked what the deciding factor was in his December decision to sign with the Pirates.

Sure, there was that $8 million, two-year contract, but, when Correia offered his explanation, he put it in different terms.

"I liked the opportunity to go somewhere where I felt like I could make a difference," he said. "I was looking for a certain situation. I wanted to be excited about baseball, I wanted to be a part of something that I knew was going in the right direction and I could be a big part of that."

There was more.

Correia nodded in the direction of the large crowd that filled the convention center in the winter's cold for the first day of Piratefest.

"This is a great city for sports, and it isn't like this everywhere, that's the truth," Correia said.

"Pittsburgh is a great sports town. You play in some cities where you go and you are jealous of the kind of support they get.

"Support lifts you up, it is a long season. To have good fan support makes you want it more, and that's the thing that strikes me about this place -- the fans love baseball here, just imagine when we get this turned around."

Buried treasure

• The tentative plan, and one that is out of the ordinary, is for Mexican pitching prospect Luis Heredia to pitch for the Gulf Coast League Pirates this summer. Heredia will not turn 17 until August, but the organization has eyes on making him part of the Gulf Coast League squad, not the Dominican Summer League team, which is the usual routine. There is a feeling that the needed adjustments to professional baseball and his willingness to learn English combine to make him a better fit for a season in Florida.

• Seems the buzz around first-year manager Clint Hurdle is the same with every player. The overwhelming sentiment is that Hurdle is a manager the players can rally around. The latest comes from left-handed starter Paul Maholm, who said, "You want to play for him, you want to get going, you want to just go out there and do well for him. That's what we are looking forward to, with his energy and everything."

• Fourteen days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Bradenton.

Colin Dunlap:


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