P-Nats' Olbrychowski makes move from bullpen to starter; gains momentum

WOODBRIDGE, Va. - Single-A Potomac Nationals right-hander Adam Olbrychowski found himself in a jam and it was only the first inning. He could not get his first pitch over for a strike. With one out, he gave up a triple to Lynchburg shortstop Andrelton Simmons. But Olbrychowski did not panic, he settled down and got the two outs.

Second inning, same trouble, the 6-foot-3 Olbrychowski left a ball up and catcher Christian Bethancourt cracked a double and then went to third on a wild pitch. This time, nobody was out. Olbrychowski again threw his pitches, located and got three straight outs.

The 24-year-old, who came over from the New York Yankees in the Justin Maxwell trade, left in the sixth inning with one out and two men on. The bullpen came in and did the rest, thanks to Neil Holland, Joe Testa and Josh Smoker.

The Pepperdine star netted the win by going 5 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits, no runs, two walks, one wild pitch and three strikeouts. His record improved to 3-5. Potomac defeated Lynchburg, 1-0, on a Destin Hood RBI single Tuesday afternoon at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge.

It was only the sixth start in 22 games for Olbrychowski this season as he made the move from the bullpen June 14 to the starting five.

"I think I was trying to be too fine early on, especially 0-0," Olbrychowski said. "And then I threw a lot of 1-0 pitches for strikes, especially off speed pitches, kind of changing speeds."

Olbrychowski said the Hillcats knew him pretty well, and maybe that might have played to his advantage this time.

"My last start was also against Lynchburg (allowed five earned runs and season-high 11 hits)," Olbrychowski said. "I threw a lot of first pitch strikes and they were just all over my fastball in. I was leaving the ball up a little bit. Today, I was able to mix speeds and sometimes you get lucky too."

Olbrychowski admitted his No. 1 pitch wasn't hitting its spot early on, so he quickly adjusted.

"Definitely, in the first few couple of innings my fastball was up more than I would have liked it to," Olbrychowski continued. "I was able to find my release point in the fourth and that was when I started cruising a little bit better. I mixed in some good changeups today. Once I found my arm slot, it was a lot easier towards the end of the game."

Potomac Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart said it was tough to watch early when Olbrychowski was having trouble starting off with strikes, but then he saw a change.

"He came back and made quality pitches (after the early jams)," Menhart said. "If you make quality pitches enough, you are going to get out of some situations."

Menhart said switching Olbrychowski from the relief corps to starting has allowed some time to fix the trouble he gets into.

"Early on in the season when he was in the bullpen, we had issues with command," Menhart said. "And he did not have opportunity to get out of those jams because it was late in ball games and he was going to get out of there. So, (when we) moved him to starter he has been given the opportunity to pitch and he has done a nice job. (Tuesday) was no exception."

The Potomac Nationals have won back-to-back games by identical 1-nothing scores and have not allowed a run in the past 20 innings. The team has now won seven of their eight games and are 16-9 in the second half of the Carolina League.

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