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From starter to bullpen to starter again: The exhausting saga of Mike Bolsinger's year

It has been a season of adversity and adjustment for pitcher Mike Bolsinger.

First there was an oblique injury which kept him out of action for the first 40 games of the season. Then he bounced from Major League starter to Triple-A reliever. Toss in a deal at the trade deadline which provided another new role -- this time as Triple-A starter and you've got the makings of a season that could easilyexhaust a pitcher mentally and physically if not break his spirit.

But Bolsinger just focuses on the next pitch. And it paid off Wednesday as the 28-year old picked up his first win with the Buffalo Bisons, pitching a solid six innings as the Herd defeated the Rochester Red Wings, 4-3, at Coca-Cola Field.

It was another mark in the crazy journey 2016 has evolved into for Bolsinger.

"I would say this is probably one of the worst years I’ve had so far in the past  six years I've been playing in pro ball," Bolsinger said. "A lot of stuff has come along. Being hurt. The trade, which to me was more of positive, and just the pitching schedule that's been going on with me. I’ve learned a lot about myself. Honestly I don’t have too many words to describe this year. It’s been a roller coaster and I’m happy that I stuck with it and really dug down deep and been able to go out there and pitch well."

To recap the Bolsinger saga:

He started 2016 at Dodgers' camp and was ready to be in the starting rotation when he suffered an oblique injury. He missed 40 games, pitched two rehab starts with Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League before returning to L.A.

In the Dodgers' starting rotating Bolsinger struggled, going 1-4 in six starts giving up 21 earned runs in 27 2/3 innings of work.

He was optioned to Oklahoma City and was converted to a reliever. Then the Dodgers dealt him to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline and Bolsinger found himself back in a starting role with the Buffalo Bisons in the International League.

Returning to a starting job meant gradually increasing his pitch count and work load. Bolsinger was on a 45-pitch limit in his first start, a 6-0 Bisons' loss at Pawtucket where he gave up two runs in 2 2/3 innings.

He threw 61 pitches in his next outing, against Pawtucket in Buffalo, and gave up three runs in a 3-0 loss.

Wednesday the Bisons finally gave him some run support and he pitched through six innings, throwing 82 pitches, giving up three runs on seven hits.

The adjustment from starter to reliever to starter presents preparation and endurance challenges.

"That’s hard," manager Gary Allenson said. "Instead of maybe an inning and third you’re suddenly going six innings. That’s an adjustment. You’ve got to learn how to stay in a rhythm and work through some jams. I thought he did a lot better job getting the ball down in the zone."

Twice on Wednesday he hung two pitches. Both times Rochester hitters drove them out of the park.

The home run ball wasn't something Bolsinger expected when he moved from the PCL to the International League.

"People say there’s not as many home runs," in the IL and "I look back at the game and I gave up two so I’m just going to take that one out of the equation," Bolsinger said with a smile.

But the main adjustment he's made in switching leagues has been facing more aggressive hitters in the IL.

"This league’s interesting. I've never seen more people swing at a first pitch ever in my career," Bolsinger said. "Guessing that's why the games here have been significantly shorter than in the PCL. I mean you’re talking about three and a half, four-hour games and here I don’t think we’ve hit a three-hour game yet since I’ve been here.

"So I think on the pitching side you’re gonna learn a little bit. That first pitch has to be a quality pitch especially in this league with these good hitters, too. That’s been the biggest difference I think so far in the league changing."

 

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