Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen gets one last chance today to make his case for a rotation spot.
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...
BRAVES AT NATIONALS
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.