Rookie pitcher Tyler Olson says he has slowly grown accustomed to the bright lights, the big crowds — and the jolt of anxiety playing in the major leagues for the Seattle Mariners.
And manager Lloyd McClendon has not hesitated going to the left-handed reliever from Spokane a lot in the early going. Olson has had five appearances already in the M’s nine games — and has yet to give up a run in four-plus innings.
His last showing came Wednesday night in mop-up duty for Taijuan Walker, who lasted just four innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 5-2 loss.
Olson threw a career-high two innings of scoreless relief.
“It’s only been a few outings, but I feel a lot more comfortable and established to where I can go out and pitch rather than worrying about throwing strikes,” Olson said.
Olson was the 2013 West Coast Conference pitcher of the year for Gonzaga University — the same year he was selected in the seventh round of the first-year player draft by the Mariners.
Last season, he led the organization’s minor league system in wins (12), strikeouts (127) and innings pitched (148.1), and was named Double-A Jackson’s pitcher of the year after becoming the team’s first 10-game winner since 2006.
But in spring training, Olson transitioned into becoming a reliever. He held left-handed hitters to a .206 hitting clip the previous season.
In 10 relief outings, Olson did not give up an earned run. He struck out 15, and walked no batters.
Not even on the 40-man roster at the outset of spring training, he earned a spot with the Mariners’ bullpen.
His appearances have not been all smooth. He has given up seven hits and five walks (four were intentional walks).
“Having pregame jitters and butterflies when you get out there, you are kind of just praying for strikes just because you have so much adrenaline running,” Olson said. “Now, I feel like I am pitching. I am focusing more on hitting spots and locating rather than just getting it over the plate because I am so nervous.”
And because the M’s are back for a weekend homestand, Olson’s parents and fiancée will be in Seattle for the next three games.
“It has been crazy,” he said.
STAY CALM, EVERYONE
McClendon wants people to relax about the M’s early slow start.
“To think it is going to be a fairy-tale season and everything is going to be fine, and you are not going to have three- and four-game losing streaks — c’mon, that is ridiculous,” McClendon said. “And to think that the world is coming to an end when you are 3-6 — that is also ridiculous.
“This team is fine. This is a real good team. … We will win our share of games.”
RODNEY IS READY
The last time Seattle closer Fernando Rodney allowed two or more runs in back-to-back appearances was in 2013 when he closed games for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rodney gave up four runs in a non-save situation Sunday at Oakland, then saw his run of 23 consecutive saves come to an end Tuesday when he gave two runs in the ninth inning in a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“When I blow the game, I say, ‘I am better than that,’ ” Rodney said. “Tomorrow I know I will do my job.”
McClendon said reliever Tom Wilhelmsen (hyperextended right elbow) is still a few days away from playing catch. He was placed on the disabled list earlier this week. … Heading into the game Friday, Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager had a .331 career batting average against the Rangers — second-best among active players behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.379). … The Mariners were the only team in the majors to start the season against three 2014 playoff teams — Anaheim, Oakland and the Los Angeles Dodgers. … Before their game Friday, the M’s were 0-6 in night games — and 3-0 during the day. … Texas is 16-13-2 in its past 31 series at Safeco Field. The Rangers started out 0-11-2.
RHP Felix Hernandez (1-0, 3.00 ERA) will make his third start of the season for Seattle in the middle game of this three-game series. He will be opposed by RHP Colby Lewis (1-0, 3.38 ERA). King Felix was 0-1 against the Rangers last season, but had a 2.11 ERA in 21-plus innings. First pitch is at 6:10 p.m.