Lefty Olson standing out in race for bullpen spot

25-year-old Minor Leaguer has been surprise performer early on in Spring Training

Lefty Olson standing out in race for bullpen spot

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Having never pitched above Double-A ball, the odds seemed stacked against former Gonzaga standout Tyler Olson breaking camp with the Mariners. But the 6-foot-3 southpaw hasn't appeared fazed by anything this spring, so don't count him out for a shot in the bullpen.

Olson has opened eyes in his first two Cactus League games, blowing down nine straight batters with five strikeouts while facing proven veteran Major League hitters in games against the Dodgers and Indians.

"He's pitched well. I like what I see," manager Lloyd McClendon said Tuesday. "It's a long spring, he'll continue to pitch. He's competing just like the rest of those guys. I've made this known to all my pitchers and players. I'm not trying to eliminate talent. I'm trying to find talent."

Olson was a starter at Double-A Jackson last year, going 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA. After a slow start following his early-season promotion from Class A Advanced High Desert, he went 7-2 with a 2.15 ERA in his final nine starts and has carried that excellence over to this spring.

The Mariners are looking for a second left-hander in the 'pen to fill the role held last year by Joe Beimel, who signed last week with the Rangers. Returner Lucas Luetge, Rule 5 Draft pick David Rollins and veteran non-roster invitees Joe Saunders and Rafael Perez are also contending, but Olson has catapulted his name into contention with his first appearances.

"I'm just going out there trying to compete, not trying to do too much, and things are going well right now," Olson said. "I'm just trying to do what I can to show the people that need to see what I've got, that I can go out there and do whatever I need to do to make the squad."

It's certainly possible for a youngster to leapfrog his way from Double-A into big league contention, given Roenis Elias pulled it off last year in winning a rotation berth with an impressive spring.

"Elias had limited time [in the system] and he won double-figures games for us last year," McClendon said. "I'm not afraid of that. Listen, I'm not anointing this guy on our team. He's got to compete and there's a lot of baseball left. But I'm wide open. I like positive surprises, so we'll see what happens."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.