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Ohlendorf excited to finally be a Yankee
01/10/2007 2:03 AM ET
NEW YORK -- Life as a Yankee began on Tuesday for Ross Ohlendorf with a bombardment of telephone calls, e-mails and media requests.

Working overtime to respond to as many people as possible, the 24-year-old right-hander was especially happy to answer one call -- his welcome-aboard message from general manager Brian Cashman.

"It's been pretty exciting," said Ohlendorf, who officially became a Yankee when the long-awaited Randy Johnson trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks was announced.

"The last several days have been strange, but it does feel really good to know that I'm going to New York and that there is closure. I always had to stop and think that it wasn't for sure (yet), so I'm feeling very excited about everything."

Ohlendorf, who found the Yankees' GM "pleasant" in a brief conversation, heads to New York as part of a four-player package for the Big Unit, including a pair of Double-A teammates. Pitcher Steven Jackson and infielder Alberto Gonzalez also are Bronx-bound, as well as big-league reliever Luis Vizcaino.

Featuring a sinking two-seam fastball, slider and a developing changeup in his repertoire, Ohlendorf spent the majority of last season with Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League. In 27 starts, he was 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA, allowing 180 hits in 177 2/3 innings with 125 strikeouts and 29 walks.

"We're excited about the potential of these guys," Cashman said. "Ohlendorf is ... big, he's physical and he eats innings."

Though he projects to begin the season in the Yankees' Minor League system, Ohlendorf said that Cashman gave him a report on the team's training facilities in Tampa, Fla., and told him to be ready for Major League Spring Training when pitchers and catchers report to Legends Field on Feb. 13.

While Ohlendorf would have been considered in contention for the D-backs' No. 5 rotation spot out in Arizona, he's likely ticketed for Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre out of the Grapefruit League, where he plans to continue to tweak his changeup and work on his control.

"I'd like to pick up where I left off last year and continue to improve," Ohlendorf said. "If I'm going to make it to the Majors, I need to work on several things -- getting my off-speed over for strikes more, and being more consistent with my off-speed and fastball. That's really what I'm focused on -- trying to get better."

An Austin, Texas, resident who attended Princeton University and was selected in the fourth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, either assignment will allow him to renew acquaintances with a number of familiar faces from the New Jersey area.

Plus, New York will be just a stone's throw away, so even if Ohlendorf isn't wearing Yankees pinstripes just yet, he at least plans to familiarize himself with the turf.

"There's so much history with the big cities, especially New York," Ohlendorf said. "It's such a unique city and you're not going to find very many places like that, so I think it would be nice to spend some time around there."

Ohlendorf said he has received numerous e-mails from his old campus, while also touching base with former coach Scott Bradley, a nine-year big-league backstop who played 28 games as a rookie with the Yankees in 1984 and 1985.

The experience of making a Major League debut at Yankee Stadium, Bradley told Ohlendorf, is second to none.

"I'm hoping that they're real happy with what I'll bring to the table on the field," Ohlendorf said. "I'm real excited about getting to go back to the Northeast for a while, and the Yankees are such a storied organization.

"It seems like they were excited to have me, and I'm excited to be here, too. I think it's going to be a good fit."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.