I mentioned last night that Will Ohman and Mike Gonzalez were the only Orioles standing at their lockers after reporters entered the clubhouse. For the sake of accuracy, Ohman was sitting down.
The media flocked to Gonzalez, of course, since he blew the save. Nobody wants to talk to the guy who retired both batters he faced in the seventh inning.
I was smart enough to interview Ohman before the game, though it mostly was due to a running joke we shared throughout spring training. Ohman never wanted to discuss, on the record, his stellar numbers or how he was a virtual lock to make the club as a non-roster pitcher. He said it was clichÃƒÂ©d and boring - which also happens to be the names of two really bad strippers.
I told Ohman that I’d wait until April 6, after the Orioles purchased his contract and took him to St. Petersburg for the opener. When he saw me walking toward him yesterday afternoon, he immediately said, “April 6!”
So, Will, way to bounce back from a 2009 season ruined by a shoulder injury and grab the lefty specialist job with both hands.
“Before I signed, I talked to Mr. MacPhail and he told me the opportunity was there, and my job was to come in and show that I was the guy that everybody had seen for the last few years, that I was healthy, and that if I performed, I was going to get an opportunity,” Ohman said. “I felt like I performed and I got my opportunity, so I feel like the organization and Mr. MacPhail were very truthful and honest. I guess I did seize the opportunity.
“It’s not that exciting.”
He meant the quote, which suited me fine.
Ohman allowed one run and two hits in 8 2/3 innings this spring. He struck out 10 and held opponents to a .071 batting average.
It’s nice when that shoulder stops barking at you and the ball starts going where it’s intended.
“It was three years of fighting that nagging injury,” said Ohman, who underwent surgery in late September to clean up the AC joint, where the clavicle meets the blade at the top of the shoulder.
“It was the only time I had spent time on the DL since 2003 and it just really stunk. It was no fun. I wasn’t physically able to throw my pitches where I wanted to. I took a big hit in effectiveness because of that. I’m glad I finally feel like I can throw the ball where I want to.
“You usually don’t see it so much until hindsight. When you’re being truly competitive, you’re like, ‘I can do this, I can do this. I’m going to make it happen,’ and you force the issue. And very rarely are the times when you actually sit back and say, ‘I’m not physically up to par right now.’ I’m going to keep pushing until somebody makes me stop, and I think that’s what happened.”
Ohman said he finally grew tired of banging his head against a wall and consented to the surgery after the Dodgers failed to include him on their expanded roster. It wasn’t until the latter portion of spring training that he felt 100 percent.
“I felt healthy the whole time. I didn’t feel any pain or any residual soreness or anything like that,” he said. “But I felt like me, the competitor, with no hindrances, probably right around the last two weeks of spring training, where I really felt like,’This is my niche, this is where I’m supposed to be, this is what I can bring to the table as a player.’ Everything up to that point is preparation.”
Ohman was ready last night and he delivered. Too bad it went largely unnoticed after a one-run lead dissolved into a heart-wrenching 4-3 loss.