Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nats vs. Braves -- 3/28/10

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen gets one last chance today to make his case for a rotation spot.
VIERA, Fla. -- Oh yeah, there's a game today. Sorry, it's been a busy Sunday already here at Space Coast Stadium, what with Ian Desmond beating out Cristian Guzman for the starting shortstop job and Justin Maxwell getting optioned to Class AAA Syracuse.

But there is one potentially significant aspect to today's game against the Braves. This is Scott Olsen's last chance to make any kind of case for a spot in the rotation. Truth be told, it may be too late for the left-hander, who at this point might need a solid outing simply to remain employed. If the Nationals release him by Wednesday, they'd only be responsible for one-quarter of his 2010 salary (so, $250,000 instead of $1 million).

Olsen better work fast today, though, because there's a major storm heading this way. Not wanting to take a chance on a rainout or shortened game, Braves manager Bobby Cox elected to leave starter Tommy Hanson back at Disney World. So reliever Scott Proctor will actually start for Atlanta and only go one inning.

Check back for updates along the way...

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Fla.
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: No TV/Braves radio via XM and MLB Gameday Audio
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 75 degrees, Wind 18 mph in from LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
DH Josh Willingham
2B Adam Kennedy
LF Roger Bernadina
C Wil Nieves
RF Willy Taveras
(P Scott Olsen)

CF Nate McLouth
2B Martin Prado
3B Chipper Jones
LF Matt Diaz
RF Brent Clevlen
SS Omar Infante
1B Eric Hinske
C Clint Sammons
DH Joe Thurston
(P Scott Proctor)

1:06 p.m. -- We're underway. The radar gun has been taken down, so unfortunately no readings today on Olsen.

1:12 p.m. -- If Olsen is trying to make a last-ditch plea for a job, he didn't get off to a great start. Nate McLouth led off by reaching on an error (Adam Dunn booted a grounder). Martin Prado singled to left. Chipper Jones hit what would have been a two-run homer to left on most days but instead turned into a wind-aided, sac fly. Matt Diaz then singled to right. Olsen did battle his way out of it by striking out Brent Clevlen and getting Omar Infante to ground out, so the Braves' lead is only 1-0.

1:24 p.m. -- The wind taketh away and it also giveth to. Ryan Zimmerman sends a line drive to right that might have been an out under normal circumstances but instead was carried over the fence for a three-run homer (Nyjer Morgan had singled and Ian Desmond had walked previously). Nats lead 3-1 in the bottom of the first.

1:35 p.m. -- Olsen retires the side in the second: groundout to second, strikeout, flyout to left.

1:48 p.m. -- Not resting on his laurels one bit, Desmond has already drawn a walk, scored a run and bounced a sharp single up the middle off the second baseman's glove to drive in a run. Dunn adds a two-run single a few minutes later, making it 6-1 Nats in the bottom of the second.

2:15 p.m. -- Give Olsen credit: He's putting together his best start of the spring. He's retired six of his last seven, though he did allow another run in the third on a McLouth single and stolen base, a Prado groundout and a Chipper flyout to right (Willy Taveras fired a bullet to the plate to almost nail McLouth). Nats currently lead 6-2 in the bottom of the fourth. The storm clouds are definitely approaching from the west, though.

2:22 p.m. -- Boy, the 9-1-2 trifecta of Taveras, Morgan and Desmond is doing some damage today. They're a combined 7-for-7 with a walk, seven runs, two stolen bases and two RBI. Nats now lead 9-2 after four.

2:34 p.m. -- Olsen allowed a couple of two-out singles in the fifth but then struck out Matt Diaz to end the inning. His line so far: 5 ip, 6 h, 2 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 3 k. Good enough to make the major-league rotation? Probably not. Good enough to make the Syracuse rotation? Maybe.

2:47 p.m. -- Olsen's day is over after 5 1/3 innings because he hit his pitch limit. Allowed one more single and recorded another strikeout. Far and away his best outing of the spring. Now it's up to the Nats to figure out what to do with him next.

3:08 p.m. -- Nice work by Sean Burnett and Matt Capps in relief. Burnett retired both batters he faced in the sixth after Olsen departed. Capps retired the side in the seventh, striking out two. Nats still lead 9-2 in the bottom of the seventh.

4:47 p.m. -- Sorry, guys. The game has indeed been over for quite a while. Nats won, 9-3. Between gathering quotes from Olsen and Riggleman, then watching the final moments of Tennessee-Michigan State, I failed to mention this minor fact. Longer analysis of the day's events (Desmond making the club, Olsen making one last case himself) will be posted in a little while.


BinM said...

Hope Olsen throws well enough today to earn a SYR spot, but can't help thinking he's going to get cut for Livo.
Also, could be the final battle for a roster spot between Bernadina & Taveras.

Positively Half St. said...

Best as I can tell, there is no XM.

PDowdy83 said...

Wait, was the a walk from a shortstop hitting second in the lineup? Hmmm, that is strange.

Hopefully Zimm keeps it up to start the season.

BinM said...

+1/2St: Can't lock into the gameday audio feed either - Don't know what's up.

Doc said...

Yeah, I was just gonna say (PDowdy83), one of the more significant runs in that 3-run homer was our SS's walk. Let's hear it for Dessi's OBP!!!!

BinM said...

So Mark, do you think if Olsen can post one more clean inning, he's saved a job in SYR to start the year?

BinM said...

If Olsen can get through the 5th cleanly, is that enough to save a spot for him in SYR?

Anonymous said...

LOL Nats socre lots of runs again....against a B SQUAD, Jurjens made us look silly is going to be a long year!

Mark - Have the Nats beat a front of the rotation starter this year and and full A lineup???

Mark Zuckerman said...

BinM: This is going to be a fascinating decision for the Nats. Has Olsen done enough to make the big-league rotation? No. Has he done enough to make the Class AAA rotation? Maybe. But is he worth $1 million to pitch at Syracuse? I'm not sure.

Ken said...

Gameday audio is working great for me, but it could be because I'm way up in Canada "eh"

One thing for sure, it makes for a feel good feeling with the number nine hitter hitting at the same time the 1 and 2 are. And like PDowdy83 noted, our SS WALKED!

greg said...

this team needs to take chances for $1M. it's not like their payroll is $100m. so unless they're convinced he can't make it back, take the chance.

sec314 said...

Definitely hold on to him. He's a lefty-valuable commodity. I've posted here and many places that I don't trust Mock... And I have my doubts about Marquis. The big club may need Olsen sooner than they think.

PDowdy83 said...

I definitely think he is worth the $1million to keep around for trade bait or injury insurance.

BinM said...

If Olsen were a 32-33 y.o., I'd say cut him & never have a 2nd thought. But he's 26, he's left-handed, and he's stood up to the rigors of a 200IP season. Unless Rizzo is feeling budget pressures from keeping Batista & Hernandez (1.5M+), I'd think they would find a way to hang onto Olsen.

Mark Zuckerman said...

To answer the earlier question about the Nats facing real lineups/starters ... they beat the Cards with everyone minus Pujols and Wainwright on the mound the other day.

Unknown said...

I'm not an Olsen fan, but with his age, left-handedness, and affordable contract, I have to agree we should keep him around. I also agree that I don't fully trust Mock. Though, I'm pretty happy that I trust everyone else in the rotation to give the Nats a predictable return that won't be embarrassing on the MLB level. First time in a while I've felt that way!

Sunderland said...

What makes the Olsen decision so difficult is that if he is sent to Syracuse, there's not really any reason to believe he'll ever be back.

Suppose things go OK for a few weeks.
Then by late April Detwiler is tossing rehab starts. A week or three behind him is CM Wang. And then a few weeks later, here comes Strasburg.

So, invest another $750K in Olsen for what?
In case he does well, we have more trade flexibility?


This is going to be a tough call.

greg said...

You presume that both Wang and Detweiler will contribute. Detweiler is more of a sure thing than Wang.

And if they both come back and Olsen pitches well, yes, we have some trade bait.

If either or both of them doesn't, but Olsen does, better for the nats.

Brian R. said...

No update in an hour and a half ... I hope it's the storm's responsibility, or at least hope Mark wasn't hit on the noggin by a fly ball.

Doc said...

Somebody important in the history of baseball said, " can never have too many pitchers...". That said, send Olsen to Syracuse. $1 mill is nothing in this day and age of BB economics. If he does well, you can be sure some other MLB team will be looking for a LH pitcher.

Sunderland said...

Greg - I'm not presuming anything.
But today, Olsen is not one of the best 5.
He *could* be one of the best 5 in the future, but he certainly could not.
It's not just Detwiler, Wang and Strasburg. There's also guys like Chico and Martin and Thompson.

Here's one presumption that almost everyone associated with the Nat's is making.

Our rotation will improve during the course of this season.

So, if Olsen's is not good enough to make the rotation today, and the rotation is going to be improving as these guys become available, why would anyone have confidence that Olsen will be able to crack into the *new and improved* rotation?

Nats fan in NJ said...

Olsen is definitely worth the $1M risk. Can't have too many arms. It's not as though his going to Syracuse is going to push out somebody that we "need" to see at AAA.

Busy day in Nats land...

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