Red-hot Olivo claims cleanup

Mariners Notebook: Veteran catcher makes manager Wedge look like genius, catching fire after desperation move to fourth in order

April 29, 2011 

DETROIT - When Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge wrote Miguel Olivo's name in at the cleanup spot last Sunday against Oakland, it was simply because he had no other option.

Justin Smoak was on the bereavement list, Jack Cust wasn’t hitting, and Wedge needed someone to bat between Milton Bradley and Adam Kennedy.

But after the past three games at Comerica Park, it appears Olivo will be Wedge’s regular option at cleanup.

Olivo capped a solid three-game sweep of the Tigers with his second home run of the season in the Mariners’ 7-2 win on Thursday.

“He threw me a breaking ball and hung it, and I hit it,” Olivo said of the pitch from Detroit starter Brad Penny.

Olivo 2-for-5 in the game with an RBI and two runs scored. For the series, he was 7-for-13 with two homers, three RBI and six runs scored.

That’s a far cry from when Wedge put Olivo at cleanup against the A’s in that final game of the Mariners’ homestand Sunday – he was hitting .164 with a .186 slugging percentage and had no home runs. He went hitless in that game but drove a ball hard into the gap in right center that Coco Crisp turned into an out with a brilliant running catch.

Seeing Olivo hit the ball with authority was enough for Wedge to put him back in cleanup for the first game of the Tigers series Tuesday. And Olivo rewarded him.

“In baseball, you need to just wait for your time,” Olivo said. “Everybody has trouble, then you get a little hot and try to keep it that way. I just need to do what I’m doing right now, keep working and come early and hit in the cage and get better.

“I can see the ball good here. It looks big, and right now I’m comfortable. I’m just hitting the ball well.”

Olivo raised his average to .230 and his slugging percentage to .338.

Now Wedge has to figure out when he won’t have Olivo in the lineup.

Normally, when teams play day games after night games, the starting catcher will get the day off. But Wedge can’t afford not to play Olivo right now.

“With the off day on Monday and another off day the following Monday and with what we are trying to do with the lineup and everything, we thought it was a good time to push him through this series,” Wedge said. “We’ll probably give him a day off either Saturday or Sunday in Boston.”

Wedge is well aware that all catchers need to be monitored in terms of getting rest so they don’t wear down as the season progresses.

“As hard as he plays, with his intensity level, I think you have to monitor him even more so,” Wedge said.

Wedge also was pleased with what he saw from Olivo in Wednesday night’s win, when he had three hits and drove in a key run with a sacrifice fly.

“Without a doubt that sacrifice fly was the best at-bat he’s had all year, arguably one of the best we had as a team all year,” Wedge said.

“You talk about sticking your nose in there in that situation and fighting through an at-bat against a very good pitcher. And not just hitting a sacrifice fly, but hitting it to deep center field. You hear me talk about the type of at-bats we want to have, that epitomizes that.”

EYE IRRITATION

Winds gusting upwards of 25 mph, kicked up dust and sent other debris flying around Comerica Park.

Unfortunately for Seattle, something became lodged in the eye of Mariners second baseman Jack Wilson before his second at-bat, leading off the top of the fifth inning.

In a frantic effort to remove it, Wilson scratched his right eye and had to be lifted from the game.

“You know how something gets in there and you try to wipe it out? I just kept wiping at it and wiping at it,” Wilson said.

Wilson only made things worse. He blurred his vision and made the eye even more uncomfortable.

“It freaked me out,” Wilson said. “It’s a horrible feeling, and I had to go up to the plate like that.”

After he struck out looking in six pitches, Wilson was lifted for Brendan Ryan.

Wilson’s eye was red and swollen after the game.

“It doesn’t feel good at all,” he said. “But I should be fine.”

ON TAP

The Mariners open a three-game series against the Red Sox with a 4:10 p.m. game today at Fenway Park. Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas (0-2, 5.53 ERA) will take the mound in search of his first win. The Red Sox will start resurgent right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2, 4.00). The game will be broadcast on 710-AM and Root Sports.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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