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Scott Olsen sweats it out

The only thing left for Scott Olsen now is the waiting, all quiet moments and nasty thoughts. Within three days, the Nationals will decide if they want to carry him in their organization. If they do, they'll pay him $1 million. If they don't, he'll look for his next job. Olsen freely admits he thinks about this.

"Yeah, you could say that," Olsen said. "I think about it all the time. I think about it every minute of the day. As much as you try not to, the more you think about it. I feel good with today and how things went. We'll let them make their choices."

Olsen, with by far his best outing this spring, made the choice a little more difficult today. He allowed the Braves one earned run in 5 2/3 innings on seven hits and no walks. He struck out four and threw 64 of his 85 pitches for strikes.

"Everything," catcher Wil Nieves said, "was working."

Olsen's shoulder felt good the entire outing, and he didn't feel tired after he exited. "I felt really strong in Lakeland five days ago," Olsen said. "I feel even stronger right now."

In the bullpen before the start, Olsen surprised catcher Wil Nieves with his velocity. Nieves had caught Olsen earlier this spring, and his pitches had transformed. The stadium radar was broken, and Manager Jim Riggleman did not know Olsen's velocity. But Nieves could sense a difference.

"It's night and day," Nieves said. "The first game that I caught him, he was kind of soft. He threw strikes, but he wasn't throwing hard. But today, I felt it in the glove. He was harder. He was throwing the ball downhill, keeping the ball down. It's a great sign. You can tell he's getting healthy."

In Lakeland, Olsen may have torched his chance to make the rotation on opening day, allowing the Tigers 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Today, though, he may have convinced the Nationals he is worth holding on to. The Nationals would owe Olsen his full salary for the year even if he were in the minor leagues. The gamble of sending him to the minors rather than releasing him could be worth it. He is still a 26-year-old, left-handed starter who has pitched 200 innings in the major leagues.

By Monday morning, Riggleman will have decided on at least the first four starters. Olsen will find out something than, and then the wait will start again.

"I have no idea," Olsen said. "With the way that Mock and Martin and Livo and those guys have been throwing, they've been throwing the [expletive] out of the ball. They've been doing really well. It's going to be a tough decision, whatever they decide."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 28, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Pitching rotation , Scott Olsen  | Tags: pitching rotation, scott olsen, spring training  
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Next: More on the Ian Desmond decision and morning links


Sounds like Nieves wants Olsen on board. When the radar gun is "broken" it is up to the catcher to set the tone for the missing data, and this sure sounds like Nieves was saying more than the company line...

Posted by: mo_dc | March 28, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

They have to keep him. Our rotation is very thin, relying heavily on several young, unproven guys. And one old guy who has no upside. Olsen threw three great years in FL and is young. They really need that depth.

I know Detwiler, Strasburg, Wang, Thompson and others are lurking but none are sure things. They have to keep him.

Posted by: Avar | March 28, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Adam: Seriously good reporting, good info from Nieves.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 28, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

The Worm-Master has to keep Livo, and use Olsen's option. Olsen gets his money, and a chance to build his strength further. It doesn't necessarily serve him to get beat up a few more times while he gets in shape on the MLB level. Livo has earned it, and usually starts strong.

"Worm-Master", you ask? I don't want it to stick, but I am rebelling against the lazy age of baseball nicknames. Riggleman would almost certainly be calls "Riggy" or "Riggsy". "Worm-Master" is stupid, but at least shows the slightest bit of thought.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 28, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Drop Olsen and pick up Gaudin for the league minimum.

Posted by: Y2kob | March 28, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I have thought about Gaudin, as well, amd it seems like a number of teams might have interest. However, it is clear that he didn't have a good spring, and not clear whether or not he is injured.

Stammen did have a very good spring. Livo did, too, even though he is old. The thing is, though, might Livo be a better fit for a team that might get Strasburg, Detwiler and Wang in a few months?

I hate for us to pass on a potentially good pitcher, but Olsen can be sent down on an option. He doesn't need to be in that equation. We may finally be at the point at which the Nats have pitchers as good or maybe better than other teams' castoffs. That isn't a cause for celebration, but it sure is an improvement.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 28, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Has any Nats' pitcher had a better outing this spring than Olsen today? To release him outright as some bloggers are suggesting seems...ill advised. No room for him now in the Nats' rotation? Fine, semd him to Syracuse.

On another point, can't understand all the ill will shown to Guzman. I will boldly predict that Guzzy, as a vet who knows the unwritten rules of baseball, will keep his mouth shut, accept his role as backup, and give 100% when he gets his chances.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 28, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I will boldly predict that Guzzy, as a vet who knows the unwritten rules of baseball, will keep his mouth shut, accept his role as backup, and give 100% when he gets his chances.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 28, 2010 7:13 PM

And I will boldly predict that pigs fly, the Tooth Fairy is for real, Santa Claus is alive and well and Goozie will not be a cancer in the clubhouse.

We all can dream, can't we?

Glad the kid won the job.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | March 28, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

>Adam: Seriously good reporting, good info from Nieves.

Posted by: Sunderland

This alone should have them keep him on. Move him down, but keep him on.

Posted by: Brue | March 28, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

The rotation issue seems to have worked itself out. Olsen has an option, he goes down, Livo, Stammen, Mock, Lannan and Marquis stay up.

But the Worm Master still has a tough call to make with the bench.

Nieves & Guzman are staying.

If you call Harris the OD right fielder, then between Bernadina, Taveras, Bruntlett, Morse and Gonzalez, you'll only be able to keep three, or perhaps four if you shorten up the pitching staff.


Nothing above is of any significance. I was just trying to write a post using the term "Worm Master".
Props -> +1/2St.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 28, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Olsen threw three great years in FL????? take another look at those stats, I wouldn't use the word great

Posted by: sjt1455 | March 28, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

M-kay. While I admire the initiative and creativity, I suspect that use of the moniker Worm Master(TM) will require frequent explanation for the uninitiated. So I'm gonna have to go ahead and stick with more mundane baseball nicknames, such as Riggster. But good luck to you, PHS. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 28, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

While I'm not averse to sending him down, I would rather they release him. He's coming back from a labrum tear which just doesn't have a high success rate. In fact, the success rate from that injury is very close to zero.

I'm not surprised the stadium gun was broken. Olsen probably wasn't throwing hard enough to register. I heard that earlier in the spring his fastball was topping out at 86 and he threw several breaking ball at less than 70MPH with no sharpness. My guess is that Olsen is closer to being done than being productive.

Again, sending him down keeps him in the organization but at what cost. Olsen has been known to be a big head case. After spending nearly 5 years in the majors, I don't think he will react well to being sent down.

One spring training start should not be the basis of keeping him on the 25 man roster. The rest of this spring he's be hit often and hard.

Posted by: jeffreyt211 | March 28, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see Olsen make it. If he is indeed rounding into form I don't see why the Nats wouldn't send down Mock or Stammen, as good as they've been, or release Livan.

Still high they actually are starting Desmond though, so whatever.

Agree--nice update/blog Adam.

Posted by: CJArlington | March 28, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

was the great year the one where he had a 6 era?

Posted by: Cartaldo | March 28, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

I don't usually like to repost, but...

$750,000 isn't the reason to release him, but it's an argument for the FO in favor of not taking all year to acknowledge what they know today.
Last year he was hurt--OK, he's had the surgery, and apparently, it didn't work. Unless you have a pretty good idea of what's wrong now (and it sure sounds like no one does) AND how to fix it, then the most likely scenario is, this is as fixed as he's gonna get, and he's no good to them like this.
Seriously, IF you were convinced this is as good as he'll ever get, you'd cut him now, right?
And there is downside to keeping him around in AAA or AA, as Petey's good question points out. They have an abundance of 4th and 5th starter candidates, they don't need to stockpile them, even cheap ones. As we saw with Hill and Patterson before, it's a distraction. No one is going to give you more than a bag of balls for him now.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 28, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Now if his next start (wherever it is) is good, too, and they keep him past the first of the month, then other GMs might be more interested, because he's no longer standing in the doorway to free agency.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 28, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

was the great year the one where he had a 5.81 era?

Posted by: Cartaldo | March 28, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Ladson is reporting that the Nationals will announce Lannan, Marquis, Stammen and Livo as their starting rotation (in that order) tomorrow and are still deciding on their #5 guy.

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | March 28, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

if so, and they go with five, that means Livo doesn't start at home until the Colorado series.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 28, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Our manager has said more than once that he bases his roster decisions more on past performance, although the Desmond decision would seem to belie that.

But if he does believe that, though, then you have to think Olsen has a shot. He's actually younger than Mock, who's also been hit hard this spring, he's a lefty and has thrown more than 200 innings in a season.

I'm not advocating for or against him, but picking the no. 5 (and, heck, it'll only be for two months) isn't going to be a slam dunk.

Posted by: nats24 | March 29, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

$1 million to Thrifty Ownership is the same as $50 million to Steinbrenner.

Olsen is toast.

Posted by: howjensen | March 29, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Adam - What is the truth about the "radar gun not working"?

Does that mean they had a gun on him and don't want to release the numbers?

It seems absurd and improbable that an MLB team would be without a functioning radar gun when evaluating a player, and velocity is a part of that evaluation.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 29, 2010 7:25 AM | Report abuse

On radar gun not working at Space Coast Stadium, it was also not working at the Thursday night game (Martin starting) and Friday afternoon game (Lannan pitching). I'm not holding my breath that'll be working at today's game (assuming rain lets up & they get the game in). Of course, many scouts in attendance (Nats and otherwise) with their speed guns so I'm sure the Nats' brass has a very good read on Scotty's velocity.
BTW, Space Coast Stadium scoreboard was malfunctioning in general Friday--the runs in the inning-by-inning line score did not match the total for the Cards. The PA announcer joined in the fun--for two innings, he announced at the end of each inning that the score was tied, although the Cards were actually leading by one. Interestingly (or not), no malfunctions or other basic mistakes to report from the split squad game at Braves' Champions Field in Disney World Saturday--radar gun was working just fine.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 29, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

So they only have one radar gun?

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 29, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

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