Olsen out of mix for rotation spot; may begin year on DL

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Scott Olsen will not open the season in the Pirates’ rotation, as the left-hander is taking a step back from game action to rebuild arm strength lost when he was down earlier in camp. And with less than two weeks remaining before Opening Day, this means that Olsen could begin the year on the disabled list.

The Pirates and Olsen met on Monday to discuss Olsen’s situation and determined it was necessary to slow things down. General manager Neal Huntington emphasized that Olsen is not injured. He simply is not where he or the club expected him to be this late in camp. The time missed due to a hamstring strain cost Olsen arm strength.

“The ball is just not coming out of his hand the way it was pre-hamstring injury,” Huntington said.

Olsen was expected to be in the mix for a bullpen spot if he lost out on his attempts to dent the rotation. But even that possibility is now in doubt given that Olsen has made just two appearances and is now shut down from Grapefruit League action.

With Olsen officially out of the mix, Charlie Morton is all but assured to be the team’s fifth starter when the season opens.

The Pirates haven’t made anything official regarding Morton’s status, but Huntington had this to say when asked if Morton has pitched his way into the team’s rotation: “Charlie has certainly made a case to have that be the situation. Given what he did yesterday, given what he’s done really all spring, he’s thrown the ball well. He’s attacked the bottom half of the strike zone. He’s let the ball fly. He’s been aggressive. His pace has been good. And the results have been there. It has been very encouraging to see Charlie this spring. Hopefully, he carries it forward.”

Olsen’s situation also affects the potential makeup of the bullpen. Assuming he starts the year on the disabled list, the Pirates have one less left-handed option than they expected. Joe Beimel, Garrett Olson and Brian Burres are all still lefties in the mix for a bullpen opening.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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