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After rough start, Double-A Bowie catcher Michael Ohlman rebounding in May

The Baltimore Sun

BOWIE -- Sometimes, numbers can deceive.

Just ask Double-A Bowie catcher Michael Ohlman, whose .211 batting average looks like a disappointing letdown from a .313 average and Carolina League Player of the Year honors at High-A Frederick last season.

But Ohlman, 23, was hitting just .181 a month ago, and the Orioles' 11th-round pick in 2009 has found his footing since then -- both at the plate and behind it. He had a six-game winning streak snapped after going 0-for-3 in Saturday's game against Richmond at Prince George's Stadium.

“Michael’s been swinging it really well of late,” Baysox manager Gary Kendall said. “It seems like, whenever a catcher hits better, you catch better. It’s a very demanding position, and it’s something Michael has made some strides on.”

On Saturday, Ohlman caught two runners stealing and came inches away from nabbing a third. He is seeing the dividends of emphasizing defensive play this season, and he’s expecting his better plate discipline will soon reap similar rewards.

“I’m just not getting a cookie every at-bat,” Ohlman said. “I’ve got to really dig in to my at-bats and get deep into them and see a lot of pitches. Really, you can’t miss any pitches here. If they make a mistake, that’s the one you have to hit, and that’s how you’re going to make your living.”

Kendall explained that the pitchers in Double-A were able to consistently attack Ohlman’s weaknesses in April before the catcher made the proper adjustments. Those early struggles are still reflected by his low batting average, but Orioles management primarily will consider his in-season improvement when they evaluate his potential.

“It’s not so much about where you start, but where you finish,” Kendall said. “You may get off to that slow start, but what the organization is looking for is someone that steadily improves.”

Baysox coaches hope to increase Ohlman’s workload from last season, when he played in 100 games, to at least 115 starts this year. In that time, Ohlman said, he plans to learn from the team’s mix of young and veteran pitchers, and he expects his batting average to keep creeping upward.

“I definitely deserve to be here,” he said. “I’ve proven that I deserve to be here, just like everyone else who’s here. Every step is another level, another learning curve that you have to take in and control.”

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