Closing games is not something Braedon Ogle ever thought he would be doing, nor is it something he will necessarily be doing down the road.
But as long as he's in that role, he's having fun.
The hard-throwing left-hander recorded his third save Sunday afternoon as the Hoppers beat Lakewood 4-3. It was Ogle's second save in the series, in which the Hoppers took three out of four games.
"I like it a lot," he said. "When (the Pirates) first approached me about it, I was kind of shocked. It was something I didn't see coming. But I was open to it and people say it fits my mentality. I like to come in, get right after it and try to strike everyone out."
Ogle was a starter all through high school and was chosen in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He made eight pro starts in 2016 and 10 more in 2017. A shoulder injury curtailed his 2018 season, limiting him to four starts, so the Pirates decided that coming out of the bullpen might benefit him this year.
"This way I can get more appearances with less volume," he said. "They asked me to try it out and see how I like it. As I get older (he's 21 now) and develop, I might become a starter again."
One thing that particularly appeals to Ogle is the frequency of pitching.
"I didn't like waiting five days between starts," he said. "And if I had a bad start, that's five days to think about it."
He's had to make an adjustment in his repertoire. He seldom uses his changeup as a reliever, sticking to his fastball and slider. In Sunday's game, he used 10 pitches, all fastballs between 95-97 miles per hour.
"I can come in and just let it go," he said. "I want to stay ahead of the hitters and get out of there as fast as possible. I never liked having to pace myself. Now I can come out and just throw my best stuff."
He has recorded 27 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. Oddly, he did not fan anyone in this game, instead getting two flyouts to left field and a popup to second base. He was able to shrug off a two-out double before getting the final out.
Pitching coach Stan Kyles likes Ogle's adjustment to the bullpen.
"He's not your typical closer," Kyles said, "but I like the way he's aggressive and throws strikes. There's a certain freedom that comes with not having to worry about a game plan. You can trust your stuff and get after it. He has simplified his approach because it's hard to use a three-pitch mix out of the bullpen."
Manager Miguel Perez said Ogle has accepted the challenge of a new role.
"He understands that these are two different roles (starting and relieving) and there are different routines," Perez said. "There's room for improvement everywhere. We'll continue to give him reps. "
The Hoppers didn't exactly have a big day on offense. They scored three runs on just one hit in the first two innings, when two Lakewood pitchers issued seven walks. Michael Gretler and Mason Martin got RBIs on bases-loaded walks. Rodolfo Castro added another on a sacrifice fly.
After the BlueClaws rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game, the Hoppers went ahead in the seventh after Martin doubled and Castro singled him in.
Reliever Will Gardner extracted himself from a bases-loaded mess in the top of the seventh, then put up a one-two-three inning in the eighth that set up Ogle's save.
The Hoppers begin a three-game home series Monday against Charleston, S.C. Brad Case will pitch the opener, followed by Steven Jennings Tuesday and Osvaldo Bido Wednesday.
NOTES: After colliding with a wall in a game at Hickory, Lolo Sanchez is in a recovery program that lets him play two games and then take two off … Martin's RBI was his 56th, tops in the SAL, and Castro boosted his total to 41 … Greensboro has beaten Lakewood nine out of 10 times this season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.