Mike Olt confident he can play right field

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Texas Rangers prospect Mike Olt has no doubt he can play right field.

The 24-year-old was out on a back field in Surprise two weeks ago working on making the right read, taking the smart route to the ball and dealing with the sun.

“I think I could be a great outfielder as long as I practice it,” Olt said. “Last year, I was thrown in a situation where I’d play randomly a couple of times in Frisco and randomly in the big league games. I just need to get out there and practice.”

How much playing time Olt gets in right field could be determined by what happens to Nelson Cruz, whose name surfaced in a Miami New Times report linked to a clinic that sold performance-enhancing drugs and is part of an ongoing MLB investigation. If he’s handed a 50-game suspension, the Rangers must be ready with an alternative in right field. Olt is one of those options.

But even before the news with Cruz came out, Olt was told to be prepared to take some balls in the outfield. The club wants to make him more versatile, hoping that can help carve out more playing time for him with the Rangers and at the same time make him more valuable overall.

Olt isn’t concerned about his role, saying he’s prepared to do whatever is needed, even if that means starting the season in Triple-A Round Rock to get more at-bats.

“That’s a decision they have to make,” Olt said. “I don’t care. If they think I can contribute off the bench better early in my career, that’s fine. If they want me to play every day and wait for another opportunity, that’s what I’ll do.”

Olt hit .288 with 28 homers and 82 RBIs in 95 games with Double-A Frisco before coming up in early August. He hit .152 with no homers and five RBIs in 33 at-bats in the big leagues. Plantar fasciitis sidelined him some down the stretch. But Olt was quick to point out that despite the limited playing time, he benefitted from the experience.

“I learned a lot,” Olt said. “I was able to take that into the offseason. I know that my swing last year wasn’t going to work and I’ve made some adjustments and I feel great now.”