Earlier this month, the Milwaukee Brewers took another step towards their bullpen rebuilding project by signing Michael Olmsted to the club’s 40 – man roster.
Olmsted, like many relievers and players in Major League Baseball, has had a tough road to get to the roster. Come Spring Training, we will find out if that trip was worth the wait.
The first thing you should know about Michael Olmsted is that he’s an honest-to-God beast of a man. At 6’4″ and 245 pounds, he has the kind of frame that makes you think twice about digging in against him, let alone getting a hit off of him. As if that wasn’t enough – he has a killer mustache that adds an air of refinement, like a wealthy man about town who spends his nights fighting for justice. [Ed.'s note: Excuse the indulgence, we're suckers for well groomed facial hair ]
He couples that intimidating chassis with a three-quarters delivery that does well to add deception to his mix of pitches. Those pitches, by the way, are a low 90’s fastball with late life, a good slider described as ‘Big-time’, ‘above average’, and ‘punishing’ that sits in the mid 80’s, and a curveball that floats in right around 70 mph. He uses the fastball mainly inside according to most scouting sources I’ve found, and has excellent command of all of his pitches.
So why isn’t he already making waves in the Bigs? To put it bluntly: because he’s had to overcome nearly every obstacle to get there.
Olmsted was drafted in 2007 with the New York Mets in the ninth round, and quickly shuffled through their rookie and low-A teams as a starter and a reliever. In 35 and two-thirds innings he gave up only ten runs (six of which came over six starts) and struck out 36 to finish the year with a 1-1 record and a 2.52 ERA. During the 2008 season, at the age of 21, he suffered an injury that required Tommy John surgery – it would sideline him for all of 2009. He was invited back to the Mets cap in 2010.
They released him. Not terribly uncommon for a young pitcher with a repaired throwing arm. What’s uncommon is that he fought his way back.
Peter Gammons tells it better than I ever could, but suffice it to say that where most
people would find a dead end, Olmsted would find a re-energized career. He took a job coaching at Cypress College, his alma mater, and while working out on his career he got offered a chance to pitch in Japan.
He took it. Halfway into that 2010 season, he had to leave baseball again, this time to be by his mother’s side as she lost her battle with cancer. In order to go back to baseball, he had to ask to be released by his Japanese club. Once again, Michael Olmsted was at square one.
But when trying out for a semi-pro league in California he was instead picked up by the Boston Red Sox – no doubt wondering what a high-caliber pitcher was doing out in the bush leagues. In 2011, he pitched 32 and a third innings to a 1.39 ERA with 48 K’s and a WHIP of .866. In 2012, he became the closer for their High-A and AA clubs with 92 strikeouts over 59 and a third innings and 19 saves.
For reasons unknown, the Red Sox did not add Olmsted to their 40-man roster, making him a free agent. The Milwaukee Brewers did not make that mistake and added him immediately.
Maybe it’s because they saw the potential in his stuff. Or maybe it’s because they know there’s something to be said for a man who simply won’t give up.