Logan Ondrusek and the Ducks found each other at the exact right time.
The Ducks, after losing All-Star set-up man Wander Perez for the season, needed another brick on the bridge to closer Francisco Rodriguez. Ondrusek, released from the Dodgers system on July 17, needed a place to continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
It was a match made in Independent league heaven.
So far, it’s worked out swimmingly. Through Friday, he was 2-1 with a 1.76 ERA and 21 strikeouts and five walks in 14 games since joining the Ducks on July 25. He spent the first part of the year with the Dodgers' Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliates.
“It’s just kind of the way baseball is sometimes,” Ondrusek, 33, said. “You have ups and downs. You try to ride the ups as long as you can and stay out of the downs. Coming off surgery, things are starting to feel closer to normal than they have been. I think that’s a big part of it, getting back to where I used to be and having the success I used to have with everything sharpening up.”
The Ducks have sharpened up, as well — transforming from a team looking for answers to a team looking at playoff hotel room discount rates. The Ducks began the weekend in control of their own postseason destiny — three games ahead of the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division second-half race with a little more than two weeks left in the season. The Patriots won the first half and are already in the playoffs.
The Ducks have the month of August to thank for their newfound spot in the driver’s seat. After playing around .500 in each of the first three full months of the season, the Ducks were 18-11 in August. Since being swept by the Patriots at home July 20-22, a potentially season-spiraling weekend, the Ducks were 24-13 entering play Saturday.
“We’ve been pitching well and hitting well,” Ondrusek, standing at a towering 6-8, said. “We’ve been down early and come back late. We’ve been up early and battled through the rest of the game if the bullpen gives up runs. It’s just the way it goes. There’s no rhyme or reason, really. It’s just that we got on a little bit of a roll and kept going.”
Ondrusek, who pitched parts of six seasons with the Reds and Orioles, is just happy to be on a mound. This time last year he was at his North Texas home rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, which he had in March of 2017. He would occasionally take his kids — now 2 ½ and 1 ½ to watch the Frisco Rough Riders, the Double -A affiliate of the Rangers — but it was all too painful.
“My wife wanted to watch more games,” Ondrusek said. “I’d watch when my buddies were playing. If they came into pitch, I’d turn on the games, but for the most part, I’d just kind of read about it.”
Ondrusek continued: “It’s a little painful when you know you should be, and could be, playing but you’re hurt. You just sit there and it eats at you because it’s what you’ve been doing your whole life and want to keep doing. When it’s taken away from you, it’s a pain in the butt.”
Thanks to the Atlantic League’s half-season format, and the increased emphasis on individual games that comes with it, Ondrusek was thrust into a pennant race almost immediately. But, he’s used to that, saying that most of the teams he’s ever played on have had at least a shot at the playoffs.
He was part of the 2010 Reds that won 91 games, won the NL Central, and made the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
“You’d hear stories about fans who would give up in the middle of the season because we were always out of it,” Ondrusek said. “We were hanging in and, all of a sudden, we took off in August. We were just beating teams and running away with it. Just the atmosphere around the stadium and the city, you can’t describe how that is. Once the season ends and you get to the playoffs, it’s just another level.”
The Ducks don’t have a playoff drought, having reached the Atlantic League Championship series in both of the last two seasons. But, should they get back, Ondrusek will surely be a big reason why.
DUCKS AQUIRE FORMER YANKEE
The Ducks acquired former Yankees pitcher Brett Marshall from the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Friday to complete an earlier trade. The Ducks sent pitcher Jason Creasy to the Blue Crabs in May. Creasy had his contract purchased by the Diamondbacks on Aug. 21.
Marshall pitched for both Sugar Land and Southern Maryland this season, posting a 5-8 record with a 4.59 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 22 starts. He appeared in three games as a reliever with the Yankees in 2013, and allowed six runs in 12 innings.
Rodriguez suffered a gluteus strain in the final inning of the Ducks’ 8-7 victory over the Lancaster Barnstormers in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday night. He remains day-to-day, the Ducks said.
The injury came during Rodriguez’s third blown save of the season. He allowed a three-run home run in 1/3 of an inning that wasted a two-run lead.
Rodriguez was 2-1 with a 3.02 ERA and 25 saves in 37 appearances after the blown save. He’d struck out 35 batters and walked 18 in 35 2/3 innings.