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Phillies' Ogea excited to hit restart button

Former Indian has battled injuries, complacency and teammates for a chance to pitch regularly. Now he's ready to take on hitters every fifth day.

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 1999


CLEARWATER -- Chad Ogea spent Friday morning at Carpenter Complex throwing softly off a mound in his first official workout with the Phillies. He will spend the rest of camp trying to ferret out complacency and mend his aching body, two factors that contributed to uneven seasons with his former club, the Indians.

"I'm excited to be here, I really am," said Ogea, acquired by Philadelphia on Nov. 13 for reliever Jerry Spradlin. "It's a good change for me."

Two gut-wrenching seasons in rehabilitation taught Ogea a lot about disappointment. He was on the disabled list three times last year. He had his fifth knee operation, tore his right pectoral muscle and had tendinitis in the middle finger of his throwing hand. Ogea also spent 10 weeks on the DL in '97 with knee and elbow problems.

Which is why Ogea should fit in well with the Phillies, who because of injuries are desperately seeking starters.

"We felt we needed to make the trade to add depth," Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade said. "We really perked up about Ogea. It give us a chance to add a starter who has had big-league experience. It was the thing to do."

Wade harbors realistic hopes about being a National League contender. But those dreams will die hard without a quality staff. Curt Schilling is the Opening Day starter and Paul Spoljaric and Cliff Politte were brought in for competition. Ogea could be the No. 2 starter or inserted somewhere in the middle of the rotation, as long as he stays healthy.

"If Chad's sound physically, he's an upgrade for us," Wade said. "He's coming into an environment where he'll take the ball every fifth day."

Best remembered for beating Florida's Kevin Brown in Games 2 and 6 of the 1997 World Series, Ogea now wants to forget about the injuries and being bounced around from the rotation to the bullpen in four seasons with Cleveland.

"There were a few injuries and it seemed like one thing led to another in Cleveland," said Ogea, who was 31-23 as an Indian. "I liked the fans and the city, but I'm looking forward to a fresh start and having success."

Ogea has had most of his success in big games. He started in the 1991 College World Series title game for LSU and led the Tigers to a victory over Wichita State. Six years later in Game 6 of the World Series, he had two hits and two RBI off Brown, becoming the first pitcher since the Tigers' Mickey Lolich in 1968 to achieve that feat in a World Series game.

Given the chance to pitch -- and bat -- regularly, Ogea came into training camp stronger, focused and injury-free.

"I've been given an opportunity and that's all you can ask for," Ogea said. "I's up to me to work hard and take advantage of the situation. And looking around, I see a lot of good players here. The one thing I know is we'll play hard. I think we can hold our own as a team."

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