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Scott Olsen's big day

It seems like the Nationals didn't envision Scott Olsen having this kind of spring. They planned to rely on a healthy Olsen as their No. 3 three starter, and if he wasn't healthy, they could wait on him and use someone else. Olsen has landed sort of in the middle. His velocity keeps hovering in the mid-to-high 80s. He hasn't had any setbacks. But he also has not convinced the Nationals he recovered fully from shoulder surgery.

"I think he's healthy," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "I don't think he's 100 percent healthy yet."

There are still 13 days before the season starts, but today's start could prove pivotal for Olsen's chance to make the rotation, which the Nationals want to solidify by the end of this week. Olsen set off some alarms when he topped out at 86 during a windy, morning minor league game last Thursday. Tonight, though, won't be as simple as watching the radar gun when the Nationals face the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., at 6. In his last big league start, Olsen allowed one run in the first inning and then shut down the Marlins on two hits for the next two innings. "He made pitches," pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "It's not always about how hard you throw."

The Nationals may have a difficult, multi-pronged choice to make on Olsen. They have to decide how healthy they believe he is. They have to decide, if he is not completely healthy, whether he can still be effective. Then they have to decide if whatever version of Olsen they currently possess is better or worse than their other options -- Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin and Livan Hernandez.

"When we talk, that's a decision that we'll make at that time," McCatty said. "It depends on what Jim thinks, I think. A lot of people will talk. He's been able to get guys out pitching like that. It's a decision that, at that time, when we talk about it, we'll see what happens."

Update, 10:09: To respond to a couple commenters wondering about Olsen's contract: The Nationals do have the option of releasing Olsen and saving themselves a good chuck of money, but not based on anything unique to Olsen's situation. If they release him by 2 p.m. March 31, they will owe him only 45 days worth of his base salary, which is $1 million. March 31 is simply the deadline for teams to grant a player unconditional release. Olsen's contract, while incentive-laden, is about as straight-forward as they come.

The mid-March 30-day's-pay deadline is for players with zero-to-three years of service, which explains the timing of Elijah Dukes's release.

Elsewhere, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham chatted yesterday with Jim Duquette on XM radio, and then they both hit two home runs. Stephen Strasburg tops this ranking of baseball's best prospects. If you play fantasy baseball, go ahead and pick Strasburg even though he'll start in Harrisburg. With the Nationals in the thick of making cuts, Jim Riggleman doesn't have an easy job. It turns out that the Yankees pretty much gave away Brian Bruney.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 23, 2010; 8:38 AM ET
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Next: Jesus Flores back with Nationals, vows return this season


Adam, I'd really appreciate some confirmation on this.

Do the Nat's have the option of releasing Olsen prior to April 1, and in doing so saving a lot of cash?

I'm not advocating this (yet).
Just wondering if this is an option.
I think it is, but would appreciate knowing for sure.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 23, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I think the date for saving money on Olsen has passed. I think it was mid march that that had to have taken place.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 23, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

IIRC, the mid-march date allows 30 days salary as severence, but players released between March 17 - April 4th recieve 120 days. Past opening day, the full contract value is guaranteed.

Posted by: BinM | March 23, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The Yankees put Chad Gaudin on waivers, he could be the Nats' 4th starter.


Posted by: SpashCity | March 23, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Obviously Lannan, Marquis and Mock have named to the rotation. Per previous post seems that Stammen is pretty close to a lock.

So, who do you want at 5?
Livo, very predictable. Probably above average about 2 out of 3 games and lousy the other one, overall below average.

Or Olsen? I'll take Olsen personally. Higher upside and with so many ready to come up later in the year, if he doesn't work out, we have backups.

Re: his velocity. According to fangraphs his fastball was 90 in '06 and 88 in '08. He was pretty good in '08 so 88 is fine with me.

Posted by: Avar | March 23, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Every day I learn something new. Thanks for the clarification, Adam.

Posted by: BinM | March 23, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Olsen actually has a low base salary with performance incentives. If they feel for whatever reason that he could be effective at any point in the season, it would probably make sense to keep him, right?

It doesn't seem like a huge salary for (left-handed) pitching depth.

The question is whether it would be appropriate or permissible to start him on the DL or give him a conditioning stint in AAA.

Am I way off here?

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 23, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

What's Olsen's option status? I seem to recall reading somewhere that he still has options left. If that's the case and if the Nats don't feel he's quite ready yet to start the season, they could simply option him down to Syracuse or Harrisburg until he is ready.

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 23, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

BinM, other sages:

Since the Nats were the worst team last year (and heck, the worst in ST, as if that mattered), do they get the first shot at Chad Gaudin? It seems a logical thing for the Nats to pick him up.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 23, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Mike MacDougal is now available as well, but not Joe Beimel. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 23, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

+1/2St: It would depend on whether he was DFA'd or unconditionally released. If Gaudin was DFA'd, I think all AL teams have a shot at him first; If it was an unconditional release, he's a free-agent.

Posted by: BinM | March 23, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm still in shock I may have to watch a series at home with Mock, Hernandez, and Craig Stammen as our pitchers after Lannan and Marquis.

This is better than last year how?

Oh I forgot a utility guy who hit .240 last year as the pretty much everyday rightfielder.

Posted by: CJArlington | March 23, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Time to Patterson his a**.

Posted by: jsparks | March 23, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

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