Olson (hip) OK after comebacker, but 'blacked out' by impact

May 21st, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- has a contusion on his right hip to wear for the next few days courtesy of Michael Massey’s line drive. He’s also wearing an 0-5 record despite a 2.16 ERA -- ninth-lowest among qualified MLB starters -- after the Tigers’ 8-3 loss to the Royals on Monday.

But considering Olson took a 101.8 mph comebacker off his body, he arguably has good reason to feel lucky -- for once.

“I kind of blacked out,” Olson said of his reaction when the ball hit him.

“I know it hurt,” catcher Jake Rogers said, “because I’ve never seen a guy get hit and get stunned where they don’t go after the ball. You could tell it was hurting him.”

Ironically, Olson’s ability to keep contact low to the ground this season -- he entered Monday with a 54.6 percent ground-ball rate that ranked in the 89th percentile among MLB pitchers according to Statcast -- might well have saved him. The Royals did a good job of lifting the ball off Olson -- particularly Massey, who ended Olson’s 54-inning homerless streak with a drive to right leading off the second inning. But even that had its limits.

Compared to Massey’s second-inning home run, which capped an eight-pitch battle with Olson, the third-inning line drive came on a first-pitch fastball up in the zone. Massey was all over it and sent it back at Olson just as he turned in his delivery. The 24-year-old right-hander tried to get his glove in front of it, but had too little time to react before the ball hit him between his hip and his thigh.

Instead of ricocheting to another infielder, the ball went straight down, sitting in front of the mound as Olson, still upright, grabbed at his hip and limped around the first-base side of the mound.

“I think it made me black out for a second,” Olson said. “It hurt pretty bad walking around.”

Once the chaotic play ended, with a run scoring on catcher Rogers’ throwing error, manager A.J. Hinch and head athletic trainer Ryne Eubanks emerged from the dugout to tend to Olson, who wanted to stay in the game but struggled to complete a couple warmup tosses.

“He could have gone,” said Hinch, “but he was really tentative. I mean, he got hit by 101 [mph], 102, whatever it was. So given that it was his drive leg, and the power that’s just going to go to the shoulder and the arm, we’re not going to take any chances. He was a little numb at that point, obviously, because of the line drive.”

Olson said his leg felt unstable as he threw his warmup tosses.

“I was able to make those two throws,” Olson said, “but with how unstable my back leg, it was probably a smart decision to make sure that any mechanical [adjustments] compensating for anything, doesn’t lead to something else.”

Olson limped off the field and back to the Tigers' clubhouse with help from Eubanks, where he received more treatment. He was walking around much better after the game.

“I feel fine,” Olson said. “I’m sure it’ll be a little bruised up, but should be good to go.”

The line drive added injury to insult in an impressive yet frustrating season for Olson, who entered the night with the fourth-lowest ERA among AL starters but still winless thanks largely to a Tigers offense that has struggled in his starts. The Tigers have scored 20 runs in Olson’s nine outings, including 15 runs while he has been the pitcher of record.

Beau Brieske replaced Olson after his third-inning exit and recorded seven outs on just 22 pitches, nine of them to Vinnie Pasquantino -- Brieske’s final batter -- before he grounded out to end the fifth inning. Joey Wentz was greeted by a 10-pitch battle with Salvador Perez, whose ninth home run of the year led off a six-run sixth inning that allowed the Royals to pull away.

Still, considering how close Olson came to a far worse injury, the Tigers won’t bemoan their fate, despite falling back under .500. They’ve used just six starters so far this season, with Kenta Maeda working his way back from the injured list after being sidelined by a viral illness just over a week ago.