Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish southpaw has the left stuff

Bollinger looking forward to making playoff contribution

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You would think the first game with a new team would be as nerve-wracking as it gets for a starting pitcher in professional baseball.

Not so for Ryan Bollinger, who has started a cool 2-0 with the Winnipeg Goldeyes. But Wednesday's scheduled start in St. Paul will drive his blood pressure up for a couple of reasons.

For one, family and friends will be there. And two, it's against the St. Paul Saints, who he played for earlier this season.

"My parents have only seen me pitch in professional baseball, I want to say, probably two or three times," said Bollinger, who was born in North Dakota but attended high school in Minnesota. "So whenever my dad is there obviously there's a little bit more added pressure. I know he's excited. He can't sit down, it seems like, during the games."

Bollinger, 23, played three seasons in the Chicago White Sox organization at the Rookie and Class A levels before starting this season with the Saints. Later he was dealt to the Trois-Rivières Aigles, where he went 4-7.

The Fish acquired their new 6-6, southpaw weapon on Aug. 15 and so far Bollinger has been successful, going 2-0 in his two starts.

In his debut against the Sioux Falls Canaries nearly two weeks ago, Bollinger told himself he had to win -- that everything had to be working. Well, it definitely was working, as he hurled a solid six innings and struck out eight. Six days later he had his way with the Canaries again.

It's not often a player joins a new team so late in the season, especially a team like the Winnipeg Goldeyes, who have clinched the North Division title and are expecting big things when the playoffs roll around.

Bollinger said he's felt some of the pressure to perform.

"Yeah, a little bit," he said. "Obviously you want to come over and be successful, but mostly it's just continuing what I've been doing for the entire season. Just keep that mindset and come in and do what I can to help out."

The transition has been comfortable for Bollinger, despite being now known as the "new guy." Goldeyes pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea said he's liked what he's seen out of him so far and what he saw when the Fish played against him earlier in the year.

"We saw him earlier in the year with Trois-Rivières, he looked pretty good," Vermilyea said. "I know we got to him a little bit, but he's got good stuff. He's got a lot of movement on his pitches, throws a good two-seam (fastball), throws a changeup off of that, and he's got a slider."

For Vermilyea, the message to his new staff member was simple.

"Try not to do too much," he said. "He's been throwing the ball well so far this year, so he doesn't need to come to our team and try to do anything different or try to strike everybody out, or pitch differently

"I know it's tough joining a team late in the season, but just have confidence in what your game is, know your game and just go out there and compete."

It certainly has been a wild and long season for the new Fish arm, sporting different uniforms at different times here and there. But with the playoffs quickly approaching, Bollinger knows he couldn't have come to a better place to play baseball.

"When our manager over there (in Trois-Rivières), Pete, told me Winnipeg wanted to use me for the playoffs, I was all for it," he said. "I've never won a professional championship, so I guess I'm going to do what I can to help this team win it... I want that championship pretty bad."

kyle.edwards@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2014 C5

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