GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Tyler Olson got an opportunity last year and ran with it like a world-class sprinter.
When veteran offseason acquisition Boone Logan went down with an injury in July, Olson — despite mediocre numbers at Triple-A Columbus — was promoted to fill the role as the second left-hander in the Indians bullpen behind Andrew Miller.
All he did was make 30 appearances without allowing an earned run. No big deal.
“It was a cool experience,” Olson said Wednesday in Cleveland’s spring training clubhouse. “I think a little bit of luck went into it, but also just the usage that Tito and (former pitching coach) Mickey (Callaway) put me in to really go out there and get comfortable and be successful.
“This team, this organization did an incredible job of getting me ready, even in Triple-A. I have a lot of people to thank for just getting me in the right mindset.”
“Having not seen a ton of him other than really through spring (training), to watch him come up and do what he did,” bullpen coach and former Indians reliever Scott Atchison said. “We’re down and we need a lefty and he was the next guy up and he came up and took the ball and ran with it and now we’re sitting in this situation with him, which is awesome.”
The situation is a good one this spring for Olson, who was drafted out of Gonzaga in the seventh round by Seattle in 2013 and made his major league debut two seasons later.
His 2017 performance, coupled with the loss of longtime workhorse Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith to free agency, almost assures Olson, 28, of a roster spot when the team breaks camp. He will join Dan Otero, Zach McAllister, Nick Goody and one or two others in trying to fill Shaw’s role of bridging the gap to Miller and closer Cody Allen.
“It’s definitely a change for us, not having (Shaw) out there and just having that durability with the amount of appearances and the time he was out there,” Olson said. “The thing that I’m looking at, though, is the guys that we still have. We’ve got a lot of depth in our pen and I think we’ll be fine.”
Last season was different in many ways for Olson. After spending the first four years of his professional career pitching as a starter and reliever, he was used exclusively out of the pen by the Indians, who claimed him off waivers from Kansas City in 2016.
“I definitely learned a lot about myself,” said Olson, who made three scoreless appearances against the Yankees in the ALDS loss. “I think the biggest thing last year was just being a reliever the whole year. Being able to have that mindset and that work ethic and just being able to focus on that. I’m coming in here with the same mindset — that I gotta go out there and show what I have and do whatever I need to do to help this team.”
Though he faced more left-handed batters (42) than right-handed ones (35), there wasn’t much disparity. He limited lefties to a .162 (6-for-37) average and righties to .219 (7-for-32).
“He can get righties and lefties out, which is good,” Atchison said. “I know he was used a lot just to get lefties, but he showed the ability to have the stuff to get righties out and I think if the situation dictates, Tito will use him that way again.”
“I’m definitely comfortable (facing right-handed hitters), but like I said, whatever role they put me in, I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent effort every time,” Olson said. “Definitely knowing what I can go out there and do definitely helps. I’m just going to take every opportunity I get to get out there and get outs.”