KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Four batters into Ross Ohlendorf's split-squad start against the Astros on Wednesday, the Nationals athletic trainer came to the mound to visit him.
That's never a good sign, but it turned out to be only a broken fingernail. The right-hander settled down after allowing four runs in the first, getting double-play grounders in both the second and third innings of a 9-7 win over Houston at Osceola County Stadium. And that, he said, was something positive he could take from the outing.
"I was really happy with my sinker. I thought it was really good," Ohlendorf said. "I've had a good sinker in the past. I haven't had it the last few seasons. It didn't move very well. And now I feel like it's really come back. I would have liked to have pitched better, but I got some double plays, which was nice."
Said coach Randy Knorr, who managed the traveling team: "He was really trying to force [the sinker] in the first inning and trying to make too fine of pitches. He went back out in the next couple innings and really just let his sinker go, and it showed up and made him effective. He just ran out of pitches."
Ohlendorf, 30, had some success with the Pirates before shoulder problems landed him on the disabled list twice in the last two seasons. He was with the Padres in 2012 and is now a non-roster invitee for the Nationals, who hope he can provide some depth for the rotation. So even though he threw 60 pitches (33 strikes) in his three innings, he's encouraged because his arm feels good and his sinker is sinking again. He ran into trouble when he got behind in the count and also made a couple of mistakes with his off-speed pitches.
"I'd like to make a good impression so that if they need me during the season, I'll be ready," he said. "I'm just pitching when they ask me to and trying to do my best."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.