For Mariners' Olson, big league dream becomes reality

Reliever joins Smith as two rookies on Opening Day roster

For Mariners' Olson, big league dream becomes reality

SEATTLE -- For Tyler Olson, the dream came true Saturday when he was informed he'd indeed made the Mariners' final 25-man roster. But the accomplishment truly set in for the young reliever when he walked into the Safeco Field clubhouse for Sunday evening's final workout before Opening Day and saw his nameplate affixed above his new locker.

"The little name tag up there, it makes it a little real," the former Gonzaga University standout said with a grin.

Olson, making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues, is one of just two rookies on Seattle's final roster that opens the season at 1:10 p.m. PT on Monday against the Angels. The other is fellow reliever Carson Smith, who pitched nine games last season as a September callup, but still qualifies officially as a rookie.

Olson attended a handful of games at Safeco Field while growing up in Spokane, about four hours east of Seattle. He says he also threw at a showcase at Safeco while at Gonzaga, performing with other college players in front of Major League scouts.

"I've thrown in the bullpen and on the mound, so I'm a little familiar with it," he said. "But actually coming here knowing this is the new office, this is the new home, there's a little bit of a different feeling.

"It's going to be crazy, a lot of emotions, not only being here for the first time in the big leagues, but being here for Opening Day," said Olson. "It's going to be a great experience and I'm just going to take it all in."

Olson was the surprise story of Mariners camp this spring, securing the second lefty spot in the bullpen by not allowing a run in 12 2/3 innings while striking out 15 with no walks. Instead of taking a lower jersey number now that he made the team, he'll carry a reminder of his long-shot status on his back when he wears No. 66, the same number he wore all spring.

"For me, it's just remembering my first Spring Training, just the opportunity of being there for my first big league camp," he said. "Kind of remembering a little bit of where I came from. And obviously it's working well for me, number-wise."

Olson said he'll have seven family members in attendance Monday, including his mom and dad. For manager Lloyd McClendon, Olson is one of the feel-good stories of the spring.

"This is a special moment for him," McClendon said. "He's from the area, he had a tremendous spring. I've always said I'm looking for surprises in the spring, positive ones, and he was a very positive surprise. He earned his way onto this club and we couldn't be happier for him."

• The Mariners held a brief workout Sunday evening at Safeco, getting their first look at the new LED lighting that was installed in the park. The lights are definitely brighter than the former system as Safeco will be the first Major League park to use LED lights.

McClendon said the workout was in part to help his players get used to the new lights, but he doesn't think they'll be a problem for his fielders.

"You can see the ball a little better," McClendon said. "I stared right into the lights and I never got blinded. So actually I think they're better than the ones we had before. I don't think there'll be any issues at all. I think they're fantastic."

• Smith, the Mariners' other rookie, found out Friday that he'd made the Opening Day roster. Sent down to the Minors a week earlier, he was recalled in a late flip-flop with right-hander Dominic Leone. So the 25-year-old Smith will also get to take part in his first Major League Opening Day in front of a soldout Safeco Field crowd.

"It's going to be a special moment," Smith said. "It's obviously my first. I've heard just talking to some of the guys that it's quite the experience. I'm excited to be part of it tomorrow, and looking forward to the first game."

Greg Johns is a reporter for 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.