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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."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 23, 2010; 9:11 PM ET
Categories:  Scott Olsen  
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Next: Nationals' Sean Burnett and Matt Capps take small steps forward


"He is out of options."

Is he? Not according to Nationals Farm Authority, who says he has at least one or maybe even two option years remaining.

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 23, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Scott, I hear upstate is beautiful this time of year. No way Olsen beats out Stammen and sad to say he is not going to beat out Livo either.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | March 23, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

He's gonna be Pattersoned.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | March 23, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't bet against it, Sunshine.

For what little it's worth, I recall that last spring training, Olsen kept saying how he felt just fine and was getting himself in the shape he needed to be ... and then he continued to stink during the season, ended up getting hisself cut open.

Just saying, he doesn't strike me as the best source for info on his own physical state.

Posted by: Scooter_ | March 23, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Could someone please give Olsen some Syracuse restaurant tips?
(he ain't going north)

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | March 23, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

I remember a Dinosaur BBQ or something like that when I was up there. Amazing food, small space but good atmosphere. Anyone else that's been up there remember the place (and if I got the name right?)

Posted by: sammoMD | March 23, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Olsen sucks.

Posted by: Cartaldo | March 23, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

He is not tired, arm feels fine, yet he can't get hitters out. BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID!

Posted by: BoteMan | March 24, 2010 4:25 AM | Report abuse

If Olsen does get axed, we really need that second lefty in the pen in a division with alot of lefty lumber...

Posted by: CJArlington | March 24, 2010 4:28 AM | Report abuse

I agree - Time for Olsen to become a RP. I'd keep him on the staff as the longman and go with Marquiz, Lannon, Stammen, Martin and Mock. In 2 months, it'll be Marquiz, Lannon, Stammen or Mock, Strassburg, and Wang or Detweiler

Posted by: hersheyman | March 24, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

For a million Bones, Olsen is not even worth keeping in the BP.

If he repeats this same performance by his next start...I think they cut him. And go with livo as 4 and stammen as 3. And they will probably us like a J.D. Martin etc. in a month at 5..till they get till June 1st and Strasburg.

Posted by: Cartaldo | March 24, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

1M will probably get you Germain Dye for a stop gap in RF. Olsen is done! Why take the risk, he soon will Petterson'd, Hill'd and Duked!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 24, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

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