With new team, Olivo getting new looks
Hoping to stay behind plate, catcher works out in left field
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Miguel Olivo, catcher, became Miguel Olivo, left fielder, during practice on Saturday morning at the Royals' camp.
Warning, this is just a test. Do not become unduly alarmed. Remain calm.
Royals manager Trey Hillman merely wants to see how Olivo might look in the outfield if the need arises.
"We'll try it for a few days, and then we'll see if, in the next week or 10 days, I can get him a couple of innings in left," Hillman said. "See how it looks."
Olivo is willing to try.
"For a couple of innings in Florida, in a double switch, I played first base in the eighth inning or whatever," Olivo said. "I've got the ability to play anywhere I want, but up to now, all my career [has been] catching."
There's certainly no permanent position change coming.
"I don't want to confuse anyone: This is a backup, backup, backup option," Hillman said. "Possibly a double-switch in an Interleague game."
For now, Olivo is considered the backup catcher to John Buck, a situation that caught Olivo a bit off guard when he reported after signing as a free agent.
"My agent told me I was going to come here and fight for my job," Olivo said. "I said, 'OK, I'll go over. I like to compete, and that's when I've been doing my whole career.' But they say he's going to be the starting catcher, but it's a long season, and we'll see what's going on."
The two catchers might be in competition, but Olivo has developed a bond with Buck.
"We work together, we laugh and we joke around," Olivo said. "We don't have any problems. He's a good guy. I've been in the same situation a couple of times."
Olivo was the primary catcher for the Florida Marlins for two years, and during that stay came one of his memorable moments. On Sept. 6, 2006, he caught rookie Anibal Sanchez's no-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
True to baseball superstition, Olivo never uttered a word to Sanchez about the no-hitter. When the last out was made, there was a celebration on the mound and Sanchez was hoisted on his teammates' shoulders. But don't look for Olivo in the photographs.
"I saw everybody coming to the mound and I thought, 'No way,'" Olivo said, smiling. "Everybody was going to jump on me and I didn't want to get hurt by it.
"I went inside the clubhouse and I waited for my pitcher in there. It was funny. They poured beer and Coke on top of me and everything -- it was a fun day, one of my best days in the big leagues."
That was in Miami, but Olivo has had some fun days in Kansas City, too. At Kauffman Stadium over the years, he's hit .415 (22-for-53), second-best ever for a visiting player (Javy Lopez is first with a .423 average). During the Marlins' first two games in KC last year, Olivo was 8-for-9 with a home run off Gil Meche.
Olivo had 16 homers in each of the last two years, so he can show power.
"Sometimes," Olivo said. "I'm not going to say I'm a 40-home run guy, but I can hit 20, 25 one day."
Meche and Olivo were teammates with the Seattle Mariners. When the Royals were considering signing Olivo, Hillman called Meche and received a hearty endorsement.
"He's caught me quite a bit," Meche said. "A hard worker and very intense. He's a guy, if something happens, I'm glad he's on my team, because he can turn into a teddy bear or a demon: That quick, his light goes on. But that's how he plays. He plays hard, he plays intense and, as a catcher, it's good to see that."
Olivo, ever affable off the field, can turn into a tiger, as he did last Sept. 29 at New York when he charged at an old Dominican pal, the Mets' Jose Reyes, and earned a five-game suspension that is currently under appeal.
Possessor of a strong arm -- Olivo nabbed 20 of 51 basestealers last year -- he's proud of his defense, and Hillman was impressed in Friday's game against the San Diego Padres.
"He did a great job yesterday, he had several in-between blocks," Hillman said. "He had a strong throw to second -- Angel [Berroa] booted it -- but it was a very strong throw and he kept the tempo of the game going very well."
Olivo keeps a lively tempo at home, near Modesto, Calif., too. He and his wife Gloria have six children to keep tabs on.
"I love the children and I take care of them," he said.
And he loves to catch. But what about that little test in the outfield on Saturday?
"I haven't checked with the coaches yet, but Miguel told me he did great," Hillman said. "He said, 'If it has to do with baseball, I do good.' I like that attitude."
Olivo's take on the experiment?
"I can play anywhere," he said firmly. "But don't forget. I'm a starting catcher."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.