Michael Olmsted was impressive in Boston's farm system and hopes to break through with Milwaukee.
By ANDREW GRUMANFS Wisconsin
Michael Olmsted opens eyes wherever he goes.
At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds with a thick beard, Olmsted is a mountain of a man and stands out in a crowd. This spring training, he's doing his best to stand out on the mound in order to try and earn a spot in Milwaukee's bullpen.
Thus far, he's done just that. With a fastball that hits the mid- to upper 90s, Olmsted has allowed just one run and two hits while striking out 10 in five innings this spring. A dark horse to make the Opening Day roster at the start of camp, the 25-year-old has put himself in position to make his big-league debut sooner rather than later.
"He's doing a good job," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He has a lot of punch outs in the innings he's pitched, which shows he had deception and stuff. I think what we see from him is a guy that continues with the velocity that he has and he's throwing strikes. He's a guy that we are looking at. Whether it's out of camp or if something happens in our bullpen that we can bring him up. He's a guy we've talked about as maybe being a part of our club.
"He's taken an interesting route in his career so far. He's a big guy who throws across his body, throws hard, and there's a lot of deception with the size of him. He's pretty intimidating."
Olmsted posted eye-popping numbers the last two seasons in Boston's organization. Promoted to Double-A for the final 14 games of last season, he didn't give up a single run and struck out 31 batters in 20 innings.
Olmsted has taken a unique path. A ninth-round pick of the Mets in 2007, Olmsted blew out his elbow in 2008 while pitching in instructional league and was eventually released after having Tommy John surgery. He went to Japan but returned home to pitch in the independent leagues when his mother was ill. It was there the Red Sox were intrigued by his power arm and signed him to a minor league contract.
Boston didn't want to give up Olmsted, but it was out of spots on the 40-man roster and couldn't protect him.
"On one hand, I was surprised yet on the other hand I wasn't," Olmsted said of Boston letting him go. "They have a lot of depth over there, and they decided to protect what they had drafted and brought up through their system, which I totally understand. We couldn't get a deal done so I went to the free-agent market."
In 86 career minor league games, Olmsted has a 1.96 ERA and has averaged 1.3 strikeouts per inning. He's exactly the type of arm Milwaukee has shown a history of taking a chance on, hitting on John Axford and Jim Henderson.
"I feel like I'm throwing the ball real well right now," Olmsted said. "My slider is coming along nicely. Last year, it took some time for it to come along. Fastball command is still hit or miss a little bit, but through each at-bat I'm able to make the adjustment and throw strikes."
No matter how well he pitches in spring training, Olmsted may get caught in a numbers game. The Brewers have five of seven bullpen spots locked up, with Brandon Kintzler a favorite for the sixth spot. The loser of the rotation battle may become the final arm in the bullpen.
Olmsted knows there's a good chance he won't make the team but also understands most bullpens need reinforcements sometime during the long season. His long career path has prepared him for whenever it is he takes a big-league mound for the first time.
"My number one goal is to make the team out of spring, but if that doesn't happen I'll go down to Double-A or Triple-A, and I'll keep improving down there," Olmsted said. "I just do what I can. Every pitch I feel like it can be my last, and I go up there with that mentality and try and get the job done."
Coming back: The Brewers will get a few players back from the World Baseball Classic on Sunday, as Mexico was eliminated Saturday with a 10-3 loss to Canada.
Having right-handers Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada back will make Roenicke sleep better at night, as the top two pitchers in his rotation won't have the innings load they could have had if Mexico had advanced.
Estrada started Sunday's loss to Canada and allowed four runs on seven hits in three innings to take the loss. Brewers closer John Axford pitched the final inning to secure Canada's victory.
How long the four Brewers on Canada's roster will be away depends on how the United States fares Sunday night against Italy and against Canada on Sunday. If the United States goes 2-0, Canada will be eliminated.
Though the United States lost to Mexico on Friday, it still controls its own destiny. A loss to upstart Italy – which has already clinched a spot in the second round – and the United States would not only have to beat Canada but win the run differential tiebreaker to advance.