Olson again is the one for O's at closing time


Without pomp or circumstance, Gregg Olson has been restored as closer of the Orioles' bullpen.

His reinstatement became official in a brief conversation with manager Johnny Oates last weekend in Detroit.

"He told me, 'I'm going to get you the ball and get you some saves,' " Olson said yesterday. "That was about it."

So ended Olson's four-week exile in bullpen limbo. He had been demoted last month after blowing two save opportunities. "I needed the time to find out what I was doing wrong and get it fixed," he said.

The problem was his mechanics, and the cure, Oates decided, was a few stress-free outings.

Since he yielded the closer's title, Olson has been 4-for-4 in save opportunities. Wednesday's save in a 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians was his eighth in 10 chances this season. It also lowered his ERA to 2.12.

Oates' cure obviously worked.

"I hope it cleared his head, relaxed him a little and took a little pressure off him," the manager said.

Olson made a "slight adjustment" in his motion and found peace of mind. "I feel I can throw the ball real well now," he said. "Once I got some work, I got the feel of what I was supposed to be doing."

Still, Olson is hard-pressed to explain his lack of success against first hitters this year. In 17 appearances, the first batters he has faced are 8-for-14 with three walks.

"What it means is, with a one-run lead, I'm putting myself in trouble," he said. "In the beginning, when everything was helter-skelter, that was the big problem. In my first six appearances, the first guy got on."

And seven times, Olson has tried to protect a one-run lead. "Those are the ones that get blown," he said.

The numbers that are more to his liking are these: Opponents are just 4-for-24 with runners in scoring position.

The way Olson has it figured, instead of saving four of his first six, he actually should have had one save in six. "That's the way I felt throwing the ball," he said. "I had no idea . . . where I was throwing it.

"If this is the worst slump I've got this year . . . honestly, I got real lucky."

Olson, the club's all-time saves leader with 139, had a chance to redefine his perspective while out of the spotlight.

"You want to be perfect," he said,"and you forget you can't be. It takes a bad outing. It takes struggling to put it in perspective. All I can do is my best. If I remember that when I go out on the mound, I'm going to be pretty relaxed."

When he entered Wednesday night's game against Cleveland, he still heard boos from the crowd. By the time he finished, the boos had turned to cheers once again.

"It seems like I wore out my welcome by blowing those two saves," he said. "It's tough to be perfect."

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