Mariners’ Unlikely Spring Training Star: Tyler Olson

Coming into Spring Training, the Mariners 25-man roster was pretty well set for Opening Day. The pitching staff, coming off one of the best seasons in recent history, was not expected to see much turnover at all. But, in Spring Training there are almost always a handful of minor league guys that put together a good spring and create some buzz. Early on, lefty relief pitcher Tyler Olson has been that guy.

Olson is a somewhat local kid for Seattle. He grew up in Spokane and  stayed home to attend college at Gonzaga. Olson was drafted in 2012 in the 17th round by the A’s, but decided to go back to school. That decision paid off for Olson and the Mariners as Seattle made him the 207th overall pick in the 7th round of the 2013 draft.

The Mariners might need to save a spot for him on the roster in the near future. In 2013, after Seattle drafted Olson, he was sent to Everett, which is the Mariners short season single-A team. Then in 2014 he split time between High-A High Desert and AA Jackson. Olson holds a 3.69 ERA in 45 games (35 starts) and has and impressive 7.78 SO/9. He came up as a starter, but it looks like he’ll be changing his role a bit.

(Shari Sommerfeld/

(Shari Sommerfeld/

So far this spring the 25-year-old Olson is pitching about as well as you can. He has only logged five innings, but has struck out eight. In addition, he has yet to allow a base runner. Five scoreless innings with a WHIP of 0.00 is something manager Lloyd McClendon cannot ignore. In Monday’s game against Cleveland, he struck out the side of Yan Gomes, Michael Brantley, and Jason Kipnis, all very well-established Major League hitters.

It is pretty rare that any player goes straight from AA to the majors, but it isn’t too unheard of in the Mariners organization. Starter Roenis Elias did it a season ago and had a tremendous season doing so. Lloyd McClendon is definitely impressed with Olson and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“He’s pitched well,” McClendon had to say. “I like what I see, but it’s a long spring. He’ll continue to pitch. He’s competing just like the rest of those guys.”

The Mariners brought in veteran lefties Joe Saunders and Rafael Perez back in February to compete for a bullpen role, but Olson might be on pace to beat both of them out. The Mariners are looking for another lefty reliever to go alongside Charlie Furbush after they passed on signing lefty Joe Beimel. All of that means that the second lefty relief role is up for grabs unless McClendon wants to just go with one southpaw in the ‘pen.

Olson was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year and he is making the most of it.

“I’m just trying to do what I can right now to show the people who need to see what I’ve got that I can go out there and do what I need to do to make a squad,” Olson said.

Olson is definitely making the most of this opportunity and that could lead to a spot on a Major League roster for the first time in his career. The biggest transition for Olson is making the change from starter to reliever. The Mariners have their rotation set, but the southpaw is making himself available by making the switch.

It is always good to see these types of stories in Spring Training. Usually they don’t translate to a spot in the big leagues, but Olson is looking like he has a legit shot to make the squad if he can keep up this level of performance for the rest of Spring Training.

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