Olsen's injury likely opens spot for Morton

Olsen's injury likely opens spot for Morton

Olsen's injury likely opens spot for Morton
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Scott Olsen's chance to make a push for the Pirates' vacant rotation spot took a major hit when he was slowed by a hamstring string injury early in camp. Now, those chances are gone altogether, as Olsen appears headed to the disabled list for the start of the season.

Lacking sufficient arm strength to continue pitching in Grapefruit League games, Olsen will spend the next week building up his arm by playing long toss. The plan after that remains tenuous, though Olsen will definitely not be ready to begin the season with the Pirates in Chicago on April 1.

"The arm strength is not where I think it should be," Olsen said. "We're just going to take some time here to build up some arm strength and feel, and get some consistency. What we're doing is making sure that once I get healthy, we can roll. What we're doing is just trying to get 100 percent ready now before we go forward."

With Olsen out of the rotation mix, Charlie Morton is expected to open the season as the team's fifth starter. Spring Training opened with Morton and Olsen the top two candidates for that last rotation opening, and Morton distanced himself quickly with his strong spring results.

After tossing six scoreless innings on Sunday, Morton has now allowed just two runs in 14 innings. He has struck out eight and walked just one.

"We've not sat down as a staff and formalized [the rotation], but given what [Morton] did [Sunday], given what he's done really all spring, he's thrown the ball well," general manager Neal Huntington said. "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."

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Morton will round a rotation that also features Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Ross Ohlendorf and James McDonald.

As for Olsen, his role on the club is something that will be determined after he sufficiently builds up his arm. He would be a candidate to work his way into the rotation if the Pirates have such a need. Olsen could also be moved into a bullpen role, though this would not be the left-hander's preference.

It's been a trying spring for Olsen, who signed with the Pirates this winter hoping that he would be ready to turn a corner after two injury-plagued seasons. But just four days after the Pirates' first official workout, Olsen found himself dealing with tightness in his left hamstring.

The injury lingered and put Olsen behind the rest of the staff immediately. He didn't make his first Grapefruit League appearance until March 14 and gave up one run on two hits in the outing. Olsen took the mound again three days later and served up three runs on three hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings.

Afterward, it became evident that Olsen's extended absence had affected his ability to get his arm ready for competition.

"He is not hurt," Huntington said. "He is not injured. But he is also not where he wants to be. He is not where we want him to be. The ball is just not coming out of his hand the way it was pre-hamstring injury."

While Monday's news brought some resolution to the rotation, it does not do much to clear up the Pirates' bullpen picture. The Pirates now have one less left-handed option without Olsen in the mix, but none of the other three -- Joe Beimel, Brian Burres and Garrett Olson -- has officially earned his way onto the roster just yet.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.