Young Justin Orenduff Has International Experience

<b>VERO BEACH, Florida</b>-- Every year there seems to be a pitcher or two in the Dodger system who leaps out of the pack and moves quickly to the fore. It's early admittedly but you'll find more than one seasoned observer who thinks that Justin Orenduff could become such a person.

The idea is certainly not based on his record in his baptismal year as a pro for he was a mere 2-3 with a 4.74 ERA with Ogden in 2004. No, it's rather that when you combine his international success with his obvious repertorie of pitches, he could well be one to be reckoned with.

Orenduff himself agrees that the experience he had with Team USA in 2003 was invaluable. "First of all you had some 40 of the best college players in the country trying to make a 20-man team so the competiton was there."

"When the team was formed, Japan brought their team to this country and we played them. We went to Mexico and played which was very interesting. We got to see their culture and realize that though there was a language barrier, their approach to the game was the same."

The team reeled off 25 straight victories on its tour, then went to the Pan-American Games held in the Dominican Republic "We played the Dominican national team (which had 13 former big leaguers), then in the tournament went to the finals but lost the gold medal to Cuba. They beat us 3-1 in the final game which was played in the stadium in Santo Domingo before 35,000. It was a big deal there."

Justin talks more about the cultural experience than his own peformance on the field which, for the record, was superb. He was 6-0 in all with a 1.31 ERA and started two of the four shutouts the team recorded in the tourney.

Then, it was back to college at Virginia Commonwealth. Unfortunately, that team had lost a lot of personnel from its Colonial Athletic Conference championship squad of the previous spring. This time around, they had Orenduff and not much else so they understandedly relied upon him heavily. He, in turn, altered his mound approach.

"Our defense was shaky," he admits. "I got so I thought I had to do it all myself, strike everybody out." That notion is reflected in the records. In 100 innings, he whiffed 129 batters.

In the 2004 draft, the Dodgers had a supplemental choice at the end of the first round for losing Paul Quantrill to the Yankees. With Orenduff still available when that turn came, they made him the 33rd overall selection. At that time, they felt he had the ability and experience to pitch at at the A level but because he had worked so many innings in college, held him back at Ogden instead.

There the approach was cautious. "At first I would come in and be allowed only 45-50 pitches a game. My arm was tired. Our college team had started practice in December and our first game was January 12."

As a professional he found, "It was like facing the best college hitters every time. In college there were always thoses sure outs in the lineup but not any more. It was definitely a learning experience. I had to learn not to try to strike everybody out and let my defense work for me."

Becoming part of a five-man rotation was another something to be learned. "At first I wasn't happy. There was a lot of waiting around."

His approach to a game remained intense, though. "I'm normally a laid-back guy but when I'm scheduled, I start getting my focus. I don't like to talk much. I have the bulldog approach. 'You're not going to hit me.' "

Orenduff is a power pitcher with a fast ball that has reached 94. "But my slider is my bread-and-butter pitch. I try to establish my fast ball. My change-up can be very good but I have to be more consistent with it."

In his last start of the season, Justin threw five innings of one-hit ball. That, the Dodgers, feel, is the guy they drafted. And the one many feel will move rapidly now that he's fresh once more.

His thoughts coincide. "I think I can start the season at Vero (thus skipping low A Columbus.) And I'd like to get to Double-A as quickly as I can. I know I have to work for it. I have to be consistent. I expect a lot of myself."

Frankly, so do the Dodgers.