Before his death in the 1993 accident I’ve described elsewhere on this blog, Steve Olin had become one of the best young closers in baseball. In this post, I’m going to take a look back at the days when he was still a promising Indians’ pitcher.
Olin got his first major league save on Thursday, August 10, 1989, giving up two hits over 3 1/3rd innings in a 7-4 win over the Yankees in New York. Rod Nichols got the win to go 3-1.
Late that June, the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph reported on how well he was doing in AAA: “Olin threw a scoreless ninth for his minor-league leading 17th save. He has not allowed a run in 13 straight appearances. During that span, he has allowed just five hits and one walk in 122/3 innings, striking out nine. He has not allowed a run since May 22.”
“Having a guy like that makes a big difference,” said Sky Sox manager Mike Hargrove. “It’s nice to have a guy like that come in and shut them down.”
At the start of ’89, Olin had made the jump from A ball to AAA ball after a fine spring training. He said of seeing that assignment: “I was looking on the Double-A roster and I didn’t see my name there and I said, ‘Oh my God, they’re sending me back to Kinston.’ And then I just glanced over to the AAA chart and went into shock. It was the best day in baseball for me.
“I haven’t really thought about it (being in AAA). I wasn’t nervous, but I tried not to think about where I was. I still try not to think about it.”
The Gazette-Telegraph wrote: “The key to Olin’s success is his delivery. A right-hander, he releases the ball halfway between sidearm and submarine. That unique motion and good movement on his fastball, slider and changeup have befuddled PCL batters.”
Rick Adair, who joined Olin in making the jump from A Kinston to AAA ball in 1989, but as a pitching coach, said: “I know A ball isn’t AAA, but he had the things, besides his stuff, that we were looking for. He keeps the ball down, he can go four or five times a week and when he did have a bad outing, he’d come back and have a good one.”
Olin had two miserable games in late May, 1989, against the Tacoma Tigers (the A’s AAA team). He said of that: “Those two games against Tacoma, that killed me. I was really upset about that. But then I looked back on my start. Maybe if I get one or two saves right off the bat, I could’ve called that lucky. But I came out and got six, seven, eight saves, so I had to be doing something right. That helped me pull out of it.”
Olin wound up converting 24 of 26 save opportunities at Colorado Springs, leaving him one save shy of an 11-year-old Pacific Coast League record when he was summoned to Cleveland in early August.
In early ’90, Olin summarized 1989: “Last year was the most fun I ever had in baseball. It was great to play in a nice town like Colorado Springs. I hope we get this lockout thing settled, but if we don’t I wouldn’t mind going back to Colorado Springs at all.”