A rough night leaves Scott Olsen uncertain
After his start tonight, Scott Olsen sounded like a man searching for something, or maybe a man not even sure what he's searching for. He hit 91 mph on the stadium radar gun, which may have been a touch fast but still better. But he couldn't tell the difference between that and the 86-mph fastballs he threw five days ago.
"I don't know what to make of that," Olsen said. "I don't know why I was throwing 86 five days ago. I don't know why I was throwing 91 today. I don't know. I guess we're getting stronger.
"I feel fine. Everything was free and easy for the most part. I didn't feel tired or anything."
Olsen also said, "I feel like I'm close, if I'm not there already."
That's the thing that may trouble Olsen most. He doesn't feel bad, and he is still capable of linescores like tonight against the Detroit Tigers: 4 1/3 innings, 6 earned runs, 12 hits, 2 home runs, 1 walk.
Yup, that was T-W-E-L-V-E hits surrendered while recording 13 outs. This spring, Olsen has allowed 23 hits, including three home runs, in 9 1/3 innings. Some of the hits tonight, like the bloop double to lead off the game and the ball that scooted under Adam Dunn's glove, could have been outs.
"They put some good swings on the ball, though," Olsen said. "They hit some missiles. They had, what, 12 hits? Probably seven or eight of them were pretty well hit."
Manager Jim Riggleman saw Olsen's outing in more positive terms. "I thought that was the best he's thrown," Riggleman said. "I just thought the ball was coming out his hand good. His arm was a lot freer. As the game progressed and his pitch count got a little bit up there, he probably got a little fatigued."
Olsen allowed both home runs in the fifth inning on fastballs he left belt-high. The second registered at 83 mph on the radar gun. Still, Olsen didn't cite fatigue. "I didn't feel like I lost anything, like I felt tired or anything like that," Olsen said.
And so, this might just be who Olsen is now. The first spring training after shoulder surgery may not be the fairest time to evaluate. But there is nothing else on which to judge Olsen, and the Nationals, with opening day less than two weeks away, need to make a decision soon.
Before the game, General Manager Mike Rizzo said he wanted to see Olsen increase his velocity. That happened by a tick or two. "The velocity has to be enough to get out big-league hitters," Rizzo said. "The hitters let you know how your stuff is."
Olsen may only have one start to make an impression, and he needs to prove a lot. He has one option remaining, but he's got a major league contract. If the Nationals keep him past March 31, they'll owe him his full $1 million salary no matter where he pitches. If they release before then, they'll owe him 45 days' pay. His next start is scheduled for March 28.
"I mean, it is a competition to get in the rotation," Olsen said. "I would assume they're going to make their decision by results. Yeah, at some point, I don't want to give up six runs every time."
March 23, 2010; 9:11 PM ET
Categories: Scott Olsen
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