Olsen signs one-year contract with Nats

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 14, 2009

Just one day after becoming a free agent, pitcher Scott Olsen re-signed with his old team, the first step in reestablishing himself as a healthy innings-eating starter and regaining his role as a central figure in the Washington Nationals' future. Olsen rejoined the Nationals on Sunday with a one-year contract worth $1 million, which could swell to just less than $4 million with incentives, a source familiar with the deal said.

The Nationals had non-tendered Olsen on Saturday, cutting ties with the arbitration-eligible left-hander who is attempting to come back from shoulder surgery. In July, after making 11 starts with Washington (2-4, 6.03 ERA), Olsen underwent season-ending surgery on his labrum. He is now fully rehabilitated, and the team expects him to be ready for spring training. But General Manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged earlier this weekend that such injuries make it difficult to predict future performance. Thus, Olsen will resume his career in Washington with a new contract -- which will increase only if he can succeed.

After spending the first three full seasons of his career with the Florida Marlins, Olsen was traded last November to Washington along with outfielder Josh Willingham. Though he entered the season as the ballclub's No. 2 starter, Olsen struggled to fulfill his promise. His fastball showed diminished velocity -- it hovered in the upper-80s, several mph slower than it did earlier in his career -- and opponents had a .320 average against him.

In 2009, Olsen earned $2.8 million. Had the Nationals tendered him a contract earlier this weekend, he would have been in line for a similar salary in 2010.

The new contract suggests that Washington retains at least a little faith in Olsen's future. Though the team is shopping for free agent starters, hoping to acquire an established top-of-the-rotation veteran, it should be remembered that Olsen started 31 or more games from 2006 until 2008. Now, he will again be given a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation. If Olsen makes 33 or more starts, the source said, he will maximize his contract, making almost $4 million.

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