Rangers’ rookie Olt capitalizes on opportunity
ARLINGTON, Texas — Mike Olt seemed surprised to turn his locker chair around Saturday night and see about 10 media members waiting to get his thoughts on his first-career walk-off hit.
The Texas Rangers rookie infielder capitalized on a pinch-hit opportunity in the ninth inning, singling home Nelson Cruz to earn a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Olt appeared calm afterward, not certain if he even tagged first base and not concerned if he would receive the ball as a souvenir.
“If it ends up in my locker I’m not going to say anything, but hopefully there will be more balls like that,” Olt said.
“To get in there and perform, it’s a good feeling,” he added. “I’ve had some bumps along the road and this is going to help me settle in and just be relaxed and play baseball.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington prefers using the 23-year-old right-handed hitter against lefties, so Tigers left-hander Phil Coke presented the perfect opportunity for a chance to pinch-hit.
“He went up there and he battled,” Washington said. “For a young kid, he looked calm to me. He didn’t look overwhelmed. He recognized that Coke was trying to get him out with the breaking balls and he made an adjustment. He got a breaking ball and he put it in play and found the hole.”
Washington said Saturday night that he plans on using Olt to occasionally give Adrian Beltre a rest at third base and in some spot starts at first base when the Rangers face left-handed starters.
“We’re not looking at him as a rookie,” Washington said. “He’s here because he can play. When opportunity presents itself, I’m not afraid to put him in those situations.”
Olt, who was called up on Aug. 2, singled in his first big league at-bat. However, his second plate appearance led to his welcome to the majors moment.
Hitting what he thought would surely be a single in the third inning against the visiting Los Angeles Angels, Olt was surprised to see shortstop Andrew Romine snag a hard line drive in the hole that most minor league players wouldn’t have caught.
“Once I got to the dugout [my teammates] screamed, ‘Welcome to the big leagues!’ That doesn’t happen in the minor leagues,” Olt said.