After being drafted with the 48th overall pick in the 2005 draft, expectations were high for Garrett Olson. He had just posted a 2.71 ERA at college powerhouse Cal-Poly after a breakout campaign in the Alaska Baseball League. Scouting Director Joe Jordan thought enough of Olson to make him his second ever amateur selection as a member of the Orioles' front office.
Somehow, the 23 year old has managed to exceed even those lofty expectations.
After joining the organization in June of 2005, Olson dominated short-season Aberdeen. A late season promotion to high-A Frederick couldn't even slow him down, as he posted 19 strikeouts in just over 14 innings. Starting back in Frederick's rotation to begin 2006, Olson posted a 2.77 ERA and earned a promotion to double-A Bowie by mid-season. Once there, he actually boosted his strikeout rate and had some observers believing he was ready for the major leagues by the end of the season.
Olson, sensing his opportunity could be close, maintained a strict off-season regimen.
"Right when the season is over, I start training. A lot of people have the mentality that it has been a long year and take a couple of months off." Olson explained to Inside The Warehouse. "In the off-season, I am usually training at least five times a week. I'm heavy into legs and core fitness stuff and body balance stuff to remain flexible."
"The off-season is used to build and, in the season, you just try to maintain your momentum and not tail off as the season wears on."
After reporting to camp in great shape, Olson knew that he was ready for a challenge. The Orioles agreed and aggressively assigned him to triple-A Norfolk. Although he had two shaky outings in mid-April, his 39:9 K:BB ratio in 40 innings indicates that he may be ready to help out a big league rotation beset by injuries. To drive the point home, Olson has struck out 10 and 9 batters in his last two starts. And he does all this without a dominant fastball, normally working at 88-92 MPH.
"I have heard that it's sneaky quick. I hide it well I think and release it like all my other pitches. I stick with the four-seam fastball and that gets the late movement away from right-handed batters. I get more sink on my two-seam fastball."
Of course, Olson knows what pitch he needs to go to when the going gets tough.
"[I use] my breaking ball, especially in a tight situation or with runners in scoring position. I like to stay hard with it and then move my fastball around."
As a general rule, major league pitchers need three pitches to survive. Both the Orioles and Olson understand this; and the southpaw has worked hard to develop his changeup.
"I haven't really used it as part of my game plan yet. It's something that I have been working on and will try to implement it in games. It's used to disrupt timing and it's definitely a pitch that I am going to hone and use the rest of my career."
The learning curve isn't completely lost on Olson, despite his immediate success in the organization. He understands that there is still much to learn about his craft before he is fully prepared for the jump to a major league role.
"I need to gain experience and learn what adjustments to make and what to throw in certain counts and [how to] read hitters."
Garrett Olson also knows that there is no point in getting ahead of himself; choosing to focus on the things he can change, rather than those he can not.
"I take each game one pitch at a time. My goal is to be there for every single pitch in the game. There are always a handful of pitches when your not there mentally and you can get punished for it. I am just trying to find that game where I am there mentally for every single pitch. It may not go exactly where I want it to, but as long as I'm committed to it I can hope for the best."
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com