MANCHESTER -- Sean Ochinko, itching to get back on the field, will likely make his first start at catcher in almost 11 months today in the Fisher Cats’ Splash Day matinee at 12:05 against the Trenton Thunder at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Sidelined for 50 games after testing positive for an amphetamine late last August while he was at Triple-A Buffalo, Ochinko was a few days from returning in May when he was hit in the left temple by a thrown ball during drills at extended spring training. He missed a bunch of time with concussion symptoms.
Ochinko was cleared to play late last week and was in the lineup as designated hitter for the second game of Monday night’s doubleheader.
He was also the DH for Tuesday night’s game against the Thunder.
“It’s definitely good to be back playing, good to be in uniform,” Ochinko said. “It was a little different being out at first, but as time went on after the concussion I got more and more at peace with it and looked at it like everything happens for a reason. Things like this happen in the game and you’ve got to deal with it and try to be positive about it.”
If all goes well and Ochinko feels OK today, New Hampshire manager Bobby Meacham said he plans to use him as catcher against the Thunder, for at least a few innings.
While Ochinko looks forward to his first opportunity, Nashua’s Kevin Nolan — a shortstop by trade — has been getting a tour of the infield this week.
Nolan, who has been on a tear at the plate for the last month, started six games at third base earlier in the season and has played 69 games at shortstop.
He started at second base for the first time in two seasons as a Fisher Cat in the second game on Monday night and made his Fisher Cat debut as a starter at first base on Tuesday.
“He’s our best shortstop, but it’s always good from my point of view to try to get these guys playing where they have the most value for themselves in their career,” Meacham said. “I think his value lies in being able to play everywhere ... He’s a shortstop, but he needs to be able to play other positions, so he can have that on his resume, so to speak, to be able to move up and play at different levels.”
Nolan had a .189 batting average on June 18. He extended his hitting streak to a dozen games with a couple of doubles, good for three runs batted in, in Monday’s second game.
Through Monday, he was 38-for-103 (.369) in his last 29 games with 13 doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI.
“Things are going well and I’m finding some holes,” Nolan said. “It’s one of those things when things are going well, you just try to stick with that same approach. Don’t get too comfortable or too content, just stick with what you’re doing every day.”
Meacham appreciates the approach.
“He looks like he did in spring training,” the manager said. “He and a few other guys at the top of the order . . . We decided to go with the guys who are going to take the most consistent approach at the plate, let’s get them the most at-bats. Guys like (Jon) Berti, (Dalton) Pompey, (Matt) Newman and Nolan, let’s get them the most at-bats and see if we can score some runs.”
Nolan has been batting cleanup in recent games.
The Fisher Cats, who went 17-10 in July, are 29-20 in their last 49 games. They have a run differential of plus-32 in that stretch and in the process have upped their team batting average from .221 to .243.