7/7/04 – Daily News Record
Ostlund Done For Year By ANDY MENDLOWITZ Daily News-Record There were no warning signs. Just a curveball that Ian Ostlund had thrown a thousand times before. But this time, while playing for the Class A Lakeland (Fla.) Tigers on May 29, the former Turner Ashby High School baseball star felt tightness, tightness that foreshadowed the worst-case scenario: torn ligaments in his left pitching elbow. On Thursday, celebrated sports surgeon James Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on Ostlund in Birmingham, Ala. The 25-year-old Ostlund expects a 12-month rehabilitation period, then a full comeback. "That’s what they’re saying," Ostlund said Tuesday from his apartment in Lakeland. "The way that I pitch and with my work ethic, they see no reason that I can’t pitch into my late 30s and early 40s. "I don’t view it as a setback. I view it an opportunity to get stronger and prolong my career." In fact, the worst part of the ordeal might be now – boredom. Ostlund is confined to his apartment this week, protecting his arm from the Florida sun. "This is like the worst imaginable prison for me," Ostlund said. He’s passing time like many a Shenandoah Valley boy would — watching DVD’s on hunting and browsing through hunting supplies on E-Bay. But the surgery is serious business. As part of the operation, a ligament from Ostlund’s left wrist was put into his left elbow. "It gives you weird sensation," Ostlund said. "It’s a burning hot sensation, but at the same time it feels wet. If I move a little bit, my whole arm feels like I dunked it in a pot of hot water." To keep sane, Ostlund has set goals for his return to Lakeland, a Detroit Tigers affiliate: 1) throw a peak fastball of 94 mph, and 2) consistently throw in the low 90s while maintaining pinpoint control. The 6-foot-1 Ostlund also would like to gain 15 pounds of muscle on his 200-pound frame. "I think that he has the desire, the ability and the work ethic to overcome the surgery and to get back into the Tigers’ plans," said Greg McAleenan, Ostlund’s Grand Rapids, Mich.-based agent. "I’m betting on him making a comeback." Tigers officials did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Ostlund was having the best season of his four-year career before the injury during a home game against Dunedin (Fla.). He had a 1-0 record and 1.86 ERA with 28 strikeouts and just three walks in 29 innings as a late-inning middle reliever. McAleenan said the Tigers told him they intended to move Ostlund up to Double A at some point this season, but they did not have a timetable. Ostlund credits much of his success to Lakeland’s pitching coach, Britt Burns, a former star for the Chicago White Sox. "He has a very simple approach to the game," Ostlund said. "His thought process does away with over-analyzation. His process is to train and react." The two also bonded over their love of hunting. Before games, they would set-up a 3-D deer and practice shooting it with arrows in a makeshift range between the batting cages and the main fields. "He would use our shooting sessions to teach me things about pitching," Ostlund said. "…. He was my Mr. Miyagi." Ostlund has filled many roles in his professional career after pitching three seasons at VMI and one at Virginia Tech. He was drafted in the 34th round by the Tigers in 2001. He worked as a starter in 2001 for rookie-league Oneonta (N.Y.), but was moved to a reliever in 2002 for Lakeland. In 2003, he started out poorly at Lakeland after having offseason surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow. Ostlund was 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA in 17 games before being shipped down to West Michigan in Comstock Park. "That was the lowest I’ve ever been in my career," Ostlund said. "Failure is the best teaching tool. It is. I took a path and it led me in the wrong direction and I’m not going to go in that path again." After being demoted to West Michigan last summer, Ostlund assumed the closer’s role and finished with a 3-1 record, 19 saves and a 1.59 ERA in 45 1/3 innings. There, he met McAleenan, whose clients include track-and-field superstar Jackie Joyner-Kersee. McAleenan first noticed Ostlund at various charity functions and decided he wanted to represent him. "I only pick a few select people that I care about and he was one of them," McAleenan said. "I want, first and foremost, someone who I think is a good person and, obviously, they have to have athletic ability. And when they have the package that Ian has, that’s a great situation from my vantage point." A situation that should be even greater a year from now.