30 Players in 30 Days: Scott Olsen

scott olsen dealing.jpgScott Olsen is once again eligible for arbitration and the Nationals are once again left with the decision on what to do with him. Last year, they didn’t tender his contact and he became a free agent, only to later sign with the Nats. It was strictly a financial move and it saved the Nationals a substantial amount of money. The Nationals now have to answer the same question this offseason: to tender or not to tender, that is the question.

When the Nats acquired Olsen from the Marlins before the 2009 season, he was a durable pitcher that started at least 31 games the previous three seasons and had never been on the DL. It hasn’t been the same story with the Nats. Olsen has been plagued by a nagging left shoulder injury and in two seasons with the Nationals here are his numbers: 6-12 with 95 strikeouts and a 5.76 ERA (92 ER/ 143.2 IP) in 26 starts (28 games).

In 2008 with the Marlins, Olsen went 8-11 with 113 strikeouts and a 4.20 ERA (94 ER/ 201.2 IP) in 33 starts. It isn’t proof that he can be a No. 1 starter, but if the Nationals can get those 2008 numbers out of him as a fourth or fifth starter, they wouldn’t complain.

At times during the season, Olsen was great. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Braves in May, at the same time extending his scoreless streak to 20.0 innings. But the high points were few and far between and the low points seemed to keep getting lower. He experienced shoulder tightness in the middle of May and was sent to the DL once again. Olsen came off the DL on July 29 but he never could settle into a comfort zone. He went 1-6 with 8.72 ERA (32.0 IP/ 31 ER) and a .331 BAA over seven starts.

“As a starting pitcher, getting into a rhythm of every five, six days, I would say it’s more difficult to come off the DL, be up and down, do all this stuff,” Olsen said. “By no means is that an excuse. When I’m out there, I’m out there. I’m feeling fine. I just got to be better. It’s just the bottom line.”

Olsen was moved to the bullpen in September and he pitched four perfect innings in his first relief appearance. It was an impressive outing but Olsen doesn’t see himself as a reliever.

“I’d like to start,” Olsen said. “I don’t want to be a bullpen guy.”

If he is healthy in 2011, he won’t need to worry about pitching out of the bullpen, no matter where he is playing.

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