Olson willing to start or relieve
Newly acquired left-hander just 'ready to get hitters out'
Unless something really strange happens, like he gets traded for the third time in about a month, left-hander Garrett Olson will arrive in Arizona in a couple of weeks and compete for one of the 11 spots on the Mariners' Opening Day pitching staff.And it doesn't really matter to him whether he makes it as a starter or a reliever. "I have always been a starter, but I am coming to camp ready to get hitters out, whether I'm in the rotation or in the bullpen," the newest Mariners pitcher said on Thursday. "I will go wherever I am needed." Just two weeks after being traded from the Orioles to the Cubs, Olson was on the move again on Wednesday, getting swapped to the Mariners, along with infielder Ronny Cedeno, for right-hander Aaron Heilman. "I got up [Wednesday] morning and was about to leave for my 9 o'clock yoga class when I got a phone call," Olson said. "I didn't recognize the number at first, but I noticed that it was a Chicago area code, so figured it was from the Cubs. I thought maybe I did something wrong, but it was the Cubs assistant general manager and he told me I had been traded." The first thing Olson did was call his parents, who live in Fresno, Calif., and plan to move and retire in Friday Harbor, Wash., within three years. "They're pretty happy about the trade," Olson said. Actually, so is he. "It's good to be a Mariner. I like being back on the West Coast, and Seattle is one of my favorite cities. I love Pike Place Market, and the ballpark [Safeco Field] is awesome," he said. "I pitched there once last season." Olson started against the Mariners on Aug. 1, surrendered 11 hits and three runs over a season-best 8 1/3 innings and received credit for the Orioles' 10-5 victory. He went on to post a 9-10 record and 6.65 ERA during his rookie season. But he ranked fourth among American League rookies in starts, fifth in wins and innings pitched and sixth with 83 strikeouts. The 6-foot-1, 204-pounder has a quality arm, and the Mariners now control him for the next five seasons.
Former Mariners reliever George Sherrill, traded to the Orioles a year ago in the five-for-one Erik Bedard swap, had good things to say about Olson."He's a good kid and has pretty good stuff," Sherrill said. "He has a little ways to go before he figures it out, but he's well on his way." Sherrill came up with some food for thought. "He likes to eat. He would come to the park and get something to eat, come back an hour later and have something else to eat, and an hour later do the same thing," Sherrill said. "He can make some 'dagwoods' and we all wondered where he put it. He's not heavy, by any means." A product of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, which is where he was on Wednesday when he learned about the trade, Olson was the 48th overall Draft choice in 2005 by the Orioles. He had a Minor League record of 21-17 and 2.95 ERA through the 2007 season, averaged 8.82 strikeouts per nine innings, and was invited to compete in the 2006 All-Star Futures Game. Olson said the experience he gained last season with the Orioles is sure to help him with the Mariners. "I feel that I gained a lot of ground on what it takes to be successful up here," he said. "Control-wise, I feel good now. I had more walks than I wanted, but I contributed that to trying to nibble and that's something I have adjusted to. "The bottom line is you have to trust your stuff and challenge the hitters." Olson said his pitching repertoire includes a fastball, curveball and changeup with emphasis on "location, being down in the zone and making adjustments." And not just on the mound. "Two weeks ago, I was getting my mind set ready to play for the Cubs," he said. "Now, my mind is set on the great northwest. I guess I'll have to cancel that order I put in for a 'Cubbied-out' blue and red Ferrari." After a brief pause, he said, "Just kidding."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.