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Cooper
04-02-2009, 05:33 PM
Royals confident in Olivo's abilities

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's not often that a player can negotiate a starting job as part of contract talks, but basically, that's what Royals catcher Miguel Olivo did last year. And he's been a happy camper all spring.

"I feel great, I feel happy with the way things are going now," he said.

When the subject of exercising the mutual option for his $2.7 million contract in 2009 came up last year, Olivo wanted some assurance that he'd be the No. 1 catcher. He'd expected to at least compete for the job when he arrived in 2008, only to learn that John Buck was the primary receiver. Cutting to the chase: The Royals gave Olivo an extended look last September, liked what they saw and assured him he'd be No. 1 this year. So the contract was signed.

"They told me I was going to be the starting catcher, and when they told me that, that's when I picked up my option," he said.

Olivo, quite obviously, has some fine attributes. Most noticeably, he's a powerful hitter and has a very strong arm.

In just 84 games last year, he banged 12 home runs and 22 doubles. He threw out 12 of 31 would-be basestealers at a 38.7 percent clip, his career best and the fourth highest in the Majors.

"He's probably got the best arm in the American League," catching coach John Mizerock said. "Off the top of my head, I'd say it's not even close. It's a weapon."

With that arm as a deterrent, baserunners tend to stay at first base, keeping the double play in order. And if they stray too far, Olivo likes to snap off pickoff throws.

Mizerock also gives him a thumbs-up on blocking balls.

"He's a big, strong man," Mizerock said. "He's quick, he's athletic, he's got some range back there."

When the Royals originally signed Olivo, some concerns were expressed about his game management with pitchers. But that's dissipated as he's learned the Royals' pitchers and the AL after moving from the Florida Marlins.

"He's getting a pretty [good] handle on it," Mizerock said.

Olivo consults with pitching coach Bob McClure before and after every game.

"Every day everybody's learning. When I get up in the morning, I'm learning from the time I get out of bed," Olivo said. "In the season, I get up in the morning and the first thing on my mind is the stadium and the field and who's pitching and who we're going to face. That's what you need to do when you have this job."

Catching not only carries the task of guiding the pitchers but checking the fielders and making sure everyone is on high alert.

"I'm like the captain on the field," Olivo said. "I have a lot of responsibility. That's good, and this year I feel more comfortable in it."

When it comes to hitting, his history includes back-to-back 16-homer seasons with the Marlins. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer terms himself "ecstatic" over what he sees from Olivo.

"Good power, quick hands, stays inside the ball, understands the problem of front shoulder coming open and trying to do too much," Seitzer said. "He's a very aggressive hitter. I love that, and he understands the importance of staying in the middle of the field and working the ball the other way. He does a great job of that."

Seitzer believes Olivo's home run total, as well as that of other Royals, will rise with that approach because it basically speeds up the hands. It seemed to work in Spring Training where, through Wednesday, the Royals' 54 homers led the Majors.

Because of his absence for the World Baseball Classic, Olivo had played just 13 games but had four of those homers and was batting .333 (14-for-42).

Olivo's easy smile and gentle demeanor in the clubhouse transform into fierce intensity on the field. After signing with the Royals, he had to serve a four-game suspension for fighting while with the Marlins. And last Aug. 5, he made a notable charge after Chicago White Sox pitcher D.J. Carrasco that resulted in another four-game penalty.

Although rivals for the starting job, Buck and Olivo have had a close working relationship. Now in a secondary role, Buck has been focusing on just preparing for the season.

"That way I can deal with it without feeling I need to prove [myself] to anybody, try to overdo [things], beat anybody out," Buck said. "It's too tiring, and for what we need on the Royals, that's kind of a selfish mindset to think that way. All 25 guys need to be striving on every single pitch, because if we really want to win around here, that's the commitment everybody needs to have.

"I've got to live that and really feel that in my heart, and I really do."

Buck also has had a fine spring, hitting .390 (16-for-41) with three homers. But Olivo heads for Chicago as the No. 1 backstop.

"We felt, based on the year Miguel Olivo had and how our judgments were on him continuing to improve, that it was the right thing to do to commit to him for another year," general manager Dayton Moore said.

"But we feel like we have two very good catchers," Moore added. "Both of them have different skill sets and they complement each other very well, and we expect to get very good production out of the catching slot."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs

MooseWithFleas
04-05-2009, 11:44 AM
This is going to be the weak link of the Royals lineup. Olivio has absolutely DREADFUL plate discipline. He has a career .275 OBP, which is putrid and he strikes out a lot while virtually never walking.

I'd be stunned if Olivio is the starting catcher by year end.

Cooper
04-05-2009, 01:56 PM
.....except for the fact that John Buck couldn't throw his mom out at second base, your concern's are valid. This spring, Olivo has a .292 batting average, a .346 on-base pct., and a .625 slugging pct. In 48 at-bats, he has 14 hits...4 of those were homeruns. But, he also struck-out 14 times, while only walking 4 times and ending with 11 RBI's.

But, he has a freakin' cannon for an arm!