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.
March 23, 2010; 8:38 AM ET
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