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Scott Olsen has been a keeper

The Nationals had a choice to make about Scott Olsen in spring training, when he was recovering from major shoulder surgery that repaired a torn labrum last year. They could keep in the organization and pay him his full $1 million salary. Or, they could "cut the cord with him, because we don't think he's coming back," Manager Jim Riggleman said.

Olsen's fastball hovered in the mid-80s. In one start, against the Detroit Tigers, he allowed 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He was 26 and had thrown 200 innings in 2008, but would he ever again be that pitcher? "It was a tough decision," Riggleman said.

The Nationals brain trust, which included Riggleman, General Manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coordinator Spin Williams, gathered shortly before the March 31 deadline when they had to decide whether they wanted to pay Olsen his full year's salary or two months of it. They, Riggleman said, came to a conclusion: "This guy is a good pitcher. These guys just don't fall out of trees and show up."

Few decisions the Nationals make this season may pay off more. Olsen, even after starting the year in the minors because he couldn't beat out Garrett Mock in the Nationals' eyes, has become one of their most valuable players. While flirting with a no-hitter last night, Olsen extended his scoreless streak to 20 innings. Even after giving up an earned run, Olsen lowered his ERA to 3.54.

The sting of starting in the minors, clearly, has remained with Olsen. Asked if he's driven by his stint in Class AAA Syracuse, Olsen said, "Very. Very. Very. I'll leave it at that."

But he has made that feeling enhance his pitching rather than hurt it.

"That's everybody," Willie Harris said. "When [Elijah] Dukes got released, I told him it either makes you a whole lot better, or you fall by the wayside. It depends on how you take it."

Olsen thrived last night by keeping his emotions steadied. He said he had no nerves while the innings and outs mounted, that he felt in control. "I used to be really emotional and wear my emotions on my sleeve a lot when I was younger," Olsen said. "But I feel like I've done a pretty good job of learning to control that. I felt normal."

Last night, He was much better than normal.


Boz looks at Jim Riggleman, the man guiding the Nationals and running away from the credit.

Scott Olsen and Willie Harris carry chips on their shoulder, and they both came through in the Nats' 3-2 victory, which kept Washington above .500 at 15-13.

Dan Steinberg gets to the bottom of the silver Elvis wig with a mesmerizing oral history.

Syracuse 9, Gwinnett 5: Mike Morse went 2 for 3 with a walk and a double. Chase Lambin went 2 for 4 with a double and raised his average to .341, tops in the whole farm system. Doug Slaten allowed one hit in two scoreless relief innings.

Harrisburg 6, Bowie 3: Tom Millone allowed no earned runs on six hits while striking out four in 6 1/3 innings. Victor Garate lowered his ERA to 0.66 by pitching a scoreless inning. Leonard Davis and Chris Marrero each homered.

Potomac 4, Myrtle Beach 0: Stephen Lombardozzi went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Brad Peacock allowed four hits and two walks in six shutout innings.

Rome 9, Hagerstown 5: Steven Souza went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Josh Smoker dropped to 0-5, allowing six earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out one in 4 1/3 innings.


It feels like it happened a long time ago after last night's wild game, but Adam Dunn had a bad at-bat Wednesday night. He gave a thoughtful, interesting interview about it to Nats Insider.

Tim Hudson wasn't very impressed with Scott Olsen, says.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 7, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Pitching rotation , Scott Olsen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 28 discussion thread: Nationals vs. Braves
Next: Scott Olsen's near-gem had a supporting cast


Re: Olsen, I think that deadline date was March 30, not April 30. Great decision on keeping him!

Posted by: rbelleisle | May 7, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Syracuse wins again tonight and something tells me Gwinnett will not get 5 runs tonight. Fish get hooked and gaffed this weekend.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 7, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like sour grapes from Hudson...

Posted by: BT23 | May 7, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

MLB TV showed the Olsen presser last night with him wearing the Elvis wig. It was my first "real look" at it. Harold Reynolds did know what to make of it - he thought Olsen had lost a bet. In any event,
the wig is about to go "National" (so to speak). I love it . . .

Posted by: lowcountry | May 7, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Great work, Adam--so much food for thought.

As one who was present at the infamous exhibition game vs. Detroit in which Scottie was touched up for 12 hits in 4-plus innings, I couldn't be happier for him. Always thought he was a gritty competitor going back to the Marlins' days.

Also, fine work by Boz, unearthing Riggs' connection with the Cards' legendary Kissell. Revealing quote from Bobby Cox.

And it's good to see Steinberg getting with the Nats' program. Substitution of Lenny Harris' mug for Willie's, as well as Hudson's comments on Scottie's
performance--beautiful! But I'm afraid, as Krauthammer mentioned in his column a couple of weeks ago, the idyll that is watching a game at Nats' Park now will soon end: bigger crowds, longer lines at concession stands, restrooms, etc. The price of success. (Do agree with those though who mention excessive volume betweeen innings: that's the time for us to engage in civilized discourse.)

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | May 7, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Hudson said Olsen "Let's face it, doesn't have no-hit stuff."
You didn't see him giving up shots into the bleachers, though, did you?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 7, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who sees Olsen sitting in the dugout and at the post-game presser who thinks he looks like a little boy? And is then surprised to find out he's 6' 4" and 210 pounds?

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 7, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....WOW! I missed the game-work-but I'm just my semi-delusional pick of 85 wins...I know it's early...but I'm REALLY liking this teams make-up. Now-we owe the Fish some serious payback! CHARGE!!!
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | May 7, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I know it's popular to complain we have too many pitch-to-contact guys on the roster, but with Olsen and Strasburg both in the rotation in a couple of months...

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 7, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Hudson's comments were more than sour grapes, they demonstrated a real lack of class. I don't recall a pitcher dissing another pitcher, even an opponent's pitcher like that. And Bobby Cox dissed Olson, too! ("some bad calls")

No class.

Posted by: ADCWonk | May 7, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Was it Bonafacio we traded for Olsen and Willingham? I remember thinking it was a steal at the time, they both just torched the Nats whenever we were in Fla.

Posted by: bflorhodes | May 7, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

It's not just you - I look at Olsen (& Willingham, for that matter), and think they're barely old enough to shave.

Posted by: BinM | May 7, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't expect Bobby Cocks to be in any way complimentary about anything having to do with Washington after he was presented with that cake the other day. Would you?

Posted by: nunof1 | May 7, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Noticed a pattern lately of opposing players putting down Olsen after he beats them. Let them talk.

Posted by: Avar | May 7, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Had to get a couple of my smug co-workers here in the A-T-L straight this am about Hudson's comment's and the fact that as i told em we shoulda swept yo sorry azz's(please excuse my grammar and enunciation) but when your a Tim Hudson and you get beat you tip your cap and move on comment's like "i don't think he's got no -hit stuff" is crass and demonstrate's a lack of class and only tend's to ramp up the Nat's and fan's like me which is right up my alley, NOW IT'S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG GO NAT'S !!!!!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 7, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I guess Pudge and Dunnkey didn't think Hudson had no hit stuff last night either.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 7, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Do NOT drink the Olson Kool-Aid. Tim Hudson was making a point about Scott's style of pitching - they're not ordinarily guys who throw no-hitters. I'm not a Braves fan, but I thought they were very impatient at the plate (with the exception of Diaz). Olson, when healthy is a good 3 or 4 starter nothing else.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 7, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Last Friday, Lombardozzi was hitting around .200. Now close to .300.

Posted by: joemktg1 | May 7, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Hudson appears to be an authority on "not having no-hitter stuff" - based on his own experience.

Posted by: lowcountry | May 7, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

On an unrelated but important note...
"Cristian Guzman and Adam Kennedy deserve a ton of credit," he says. He = Jim Riggleman. The one opinion that matters.

Posted by: fpcsteve | May 7, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Egads, I can't believe that I'm going to defend an Atlanta Brave but here goes ...

Hudson *DID* tip his cap to Olsen:

""You've got to tip your cap to [Olsen]," Hudson said."

And the rest of what he said is, in fact, the truth. Olsen really doesn't have no-hit stuff. At least not in the traditional "Nolan Ryan" stuff. But any pitcher can no-hit any team by 1) hitting his spots, 2) keeping batters off-balance and 3) having a good defense behind him (and one could add 4) having an umpire expand the strike zone a little more each inning).

And that's what Hudson meant when he said:

"He's got pretty good stuff ... He was mixing things up pretty good and had us off-balance, and we couldn't do much against him for a while."

I really don't think it was any dig at Olsen at all.

Posted by: erocks33 | May 7, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

erocks, I tend to agree, and think that if Hudson's comments were a dig at anyone, it was at his own teammates, the lineup that was completely shut down by Olsen.
He was saying the Olsen was pitching really well, but our guys should have been able to get a little something off of him.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 7, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"Last night, He was much better than normal."

Better, yes, but not a god. ;-)

Posted by: tailwagger | May 7, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

There you going bring "context" into the equation, erocks, and spoiling all our fun piling-on Hudson and the hapless Braves :)

Posted by: lowcountry | May 7, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse


You do perhaps inadvertently touch on why Hudson's comment was out of line. The rest of his comments were perfectly appropriate, but a veteran pitcher does not add the remark about Olsen's stuff not being no-hit material. Gratuitous, even if true in some sense, and it does sound as if you're blaming your teammates. Probably gives a revealing look into the state of the ATL clubhouse at this time. Doubt that they're awarding Elvis wigs these days.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | May 7, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Does any1 else think that Riggs is going to his double switch options too early? Taking Dunn and Willingham outta the game in the 7th or 8th really depletes the lineup if the other team ties and it goes to extras. And thats what has happened a few times. Any thoughts?

Posted by: dovelevine | May 7, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"I wouldn't expect Bobby Cocks to be in any way complimentary about anything having to do with Washington after he was presented with that cake the other day. Would you?"

Hey now, Bobby's got nothing to blame Washington for. His own fanbase from the Great State of Georgia and (inexplicably) the great fans of West Virginia sent Isakson and Rockefeller to the Senate. Washington is responsible only for one worthless shadow Senator.

I seem to be alone in this, but I read Hudson's comments as a catty remark about the Atlanta Braves' lineup. Also not very classy for a team leader, but not really a snub at Olsen.

Besides, we Nationals fans seem to be beyond the point where we need to defend our players with righteous indignation. We only have to smile courteously and momentarily wish we were from some city to the north full of brotherly love and might crassly croon "scoreboard!"

Posted by: Section506 | May 7, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

So much fun watching this team now! And thanks to WaPo for the great coverage today. Gamer, big front page of Sports pic, and an oral history of the Elvis Wig. Great stuff. I'll bet even CIL is happy today!

Posted by: NatsFly | May 7, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

@506 - You're not the only one who thinks Hudson was taking a backhanded swipe at his team. Kinda like saying, "I can't believe we're getting beat by THOSE guys..."

And FWIW, the Braves' David Ross said, "They've got a lot better team than they've had in the past."

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 7, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey Braves fans...your team is in first place if you turn the newspaper upside down. Actually I have no problem with Atlanta fans. But the dig was aimed at those who dis the Nats. The Nats are only going to get better as the season goes on. Desmond was a great addition. I was surprised and glad they made him the opening day SS.

Posted by: chopin224 | May 7, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Small article in the paper on no movement in the Dunn negotiations. I'm sure Rizzo knows he provides Zimmerman protection in the lineup and it's no coincidence that Zimm had his best year last year. Same thing for Willingham who is an ideal No. 5 hitter who gets to see a lot of pitches because of who hits in front of him. Considering Dunn is only 30 and has been a consistent 40-home run man, I'd like to think the Nats would do the smart thing and get him signed to an extension soon. It's pretty obvious he wants to play here, but you never know once the season ends and he has a chance to explore the FA market.

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 7, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

BTW ... I didn't have the sound on (TV nor radio) so forgive me if this was mentioned during the game, but I thought I noticed Bruney got rid of the Grizzly Adams beard while he was warming up last night. Did anyone else notice that? If so, then I'm hoping that's what was causing his wildness this season ...

Posted by: erocks33 | May 7, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Agreed - I, too, think Riggs goes to his double switches too early. They've largely worked out so far, but at times I'm thinking, Man, he sure likes to gamble.

As for Bruney's beard - I hope he got rid of that neat but overgrown shag on his face.

Posted by: samantha7 | May 7, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Doveline/Samantha7: I said as much last night(discussion thread) about Rigg's double switch leaving us exposed, depth wise and yes he gambles but i'm sure he's thinking hey we're on a roll team wise so let's bet the house,now if he was playing it close to the vest some of us would say Riggleman's too conservative but that's what happens when you're winning you can second guess with a smile!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 7, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I think Riggs is playing for the win there, just as he did the other night in extra innings. With what--20 games in the next 20 days?--he's figuring they'll win more than they lose by going for it, and trying not to burn out the only two bullpen arms he's got (any worse than he already is). Makes sense, even if it doesn't wind up working out. He trusts his players to come through. They recognise that and appreciate it.

I thought Bernadina had a shot at the liner at first, and made a split-second choice (aren't they all?) to play the hop and stop the tying run at home. Reasonable plan, miserable throw. Oh well.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 7, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Likewise on the double-switches, he is showing his bench he trusts them (notice he doesn't do that with his bullpen very much), and is trying to keep them sharp with ABs so he *can* trust them.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 7, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to Olsen and his fine comeback from injury there were a couple of factors in is favor last night -- the Braves lineup was not their best with McCann resting and Heyward not starting. Also, Charley and Dave made repeated references to the generous strike zone, especiallly for Diaz (3 K's, 2 looking).
On the other side of the ledger, if Zim's errant throw to second in the 8th had instead resulted in an inning ending DP Olsen would have carried a 1-hit shutout into the 9th. Have to give some credit to Hudson, he had a ridiculous pitchcount going for 5 innings (avg 9-10 piches per inning) with 3 DP's and numerous groundouts. However in this case good hitting beat good pitching,

Posted by: Natmeister | May 7, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Right (with showing he trusts them and giving them chances to stay sharp). And also that he doesn't have the same confidence in the bullpen except for Clippard and Capps. He works the other relievers in but they don't come through as much. Bruney through a very efficient, fast 7th inning on Weds, though. It was good to see.

Posted by: samantha7 | May 7, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

bendersx6, I think you miss the point. Any pitcher on any night can have no-hit stuff. Even the worst junk-baller can have a night where he is painting the corners. Look up the list of ML no hitters, it is full of one time wonders. Did anybody think Don Larsen had perfect game stuff when he did it? Hudson was just sour grapes. He should be glad he didn't get tagged with the loss!

Posted by: JAMNEW | May 7, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Anybody think Ramon Ortiz had 2-hit shutout stuff?
One night, he did. You could look it up.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 7, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

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