Athletics

A's Olson drawing praise for Cactus League power surge

Athletics
Matt Olson

The groundskeeper at Tempe Diablo Stadium had to give some extra TLC to an unlucky palm tree on Saturday.

In the A’s 11-2 Cactus League victory over the Los Angeles Angels, Matt Olson hit an absolute bomb of a home run that bounced high off a palm tree trunk in right-center field.

It marked Olson’s fifth dinger of the spring, as he went 3-for-4 with a double to keep up his torrid pace in Arizona. Sure, it’s only the Cactus League, but Olson has slashed an eye-popping .406/.424/1.000 line in 33 plate appearances. He’s racked up five doubles but it’s also worth noting he’s struck out eight times and walked just once.

A’s starter Chris Bassitt said he’s eager to watch Olson play a full season after the first baseman was limited to 127 games in 2019 due to hand surgery.

“A healthy Olson is frightening for the league, I’ll tell you that,” Bassitt told reporters via video conference on Saturday. “I know everyone knows how good he is, but you give him a full year of being healthy and he’s going to put up some incredible numbers. I think we’re all very, very excited to see what he can do this year.”

Earlier this spring, Bassitt proclaimed Olson and Matt Chapman will each hit 45 homers this year, so you know he’s on the Matts’ hype train. 

Ditto for A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson, who offered some funny advice as to how he’d attack Olson as an opponent.

 

“Try to get him before he gets off the bus,” Emerson said.

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In Olson’s own estimation, he “stunk” during last year’s 60-game season shortened by the pandemic. He finished with a .195/.310/.424 slash line, 14 homers and 42 RBI before refining his swing this offseason.

Olson said he focused on hitting inside pitches, something that usually gives him problems when he’s struggling. Earlier this spring he told reporters the technical changes he’s made and that he’s glad to see them paying off in game action.

“My bat was a little too flat just to be able to get to that inside pitch,” Olson said. “I had to work around my body. When I’m spinning is when I’m not doing well. It’s when I roll over balls to the right side and I ground out. 

“That good, vertical bat and clean path gives me a chance to be able to work through the ball and be able to drive it instead of just getting on top of it and getting to the pitch and not doing anything with it.”

Even though his 2019 season was cut short to injury, Olson led all American League first basemen with 36 homers. 

The AL features some elite first base sluggers like Jose Abreu and Luke Voit, but there’s no reason to think Olson can’t lead the league in home runs again in 2021 if he can shake off his history of slow starts and maintain this groove into the regular season.