08/14/08 1:54 PM ET
Olivo begins serving suspension
Catcher's penalty reduced from five game to four
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Olivo originally was assessed a five-game suspension for his involvement in a scuffle with the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 3 at Kansas City but he appealed. His fine of $2,000 was reduced to $1,000.
The Royals did not expect to make a roster move during Olivo's absence, meaning that outfielder Mitch Maier becomes the backup catcher to John Buck. The club plans for Buck to be behind the plate on Thursday against the White Sox and for all three weekend games at Yankee Stadium.
"I'm [going] to get my four days and then I'll be done with it, and then I'll be back at Cleveland," Olivo said. "It's not only me, a lot of people get fined and disciplined. I want to be playing, but things happen."
Olivo was penalized after he was hit by a pitch and charged after White Sox pitcher D.J. Carrasco. Later, pitcher Zack Greinke hit Nick Swisher with a pitch, an incident which got him a five-game suspension and Royals manager Trey Hillman a one-game sit-down. Greinke is serving his suspension now and will return to pitch on Saturday against the New York Yankees. Hillman, with no right of appeal, served his one game immediately.
This is the second time Olivo has served a suspension. He missed four games at the beginning of the season, a holdover from being suspended for a 2007 dustup when he was with the Florida Marlins.
"I need to pay for everything I do. That's the way it is," Olivo said.
Buck on Thursday started his 83rd game this season, and his fifth in a row. He likes to be behind the plate as much as possible, even day games after night games, as was the case on Thursday.
"It's all the same when you're in there," Buck said.
Catching 10 or 12 days in a row was common for him in his Minor League days.
Maier, a catcher when he signed as a pro in 2003, last caught regularly that year for the Surprise Royals in the Rookie Arizona League.
"I didn't know [Olivo's suspension] started today," Maier said Thursday. "But I caught a bullpen yesterday, so I guess if they need me I can do it in an extreme emergency situation."
Maier worked with bullpen coach John Mizerock and caught Greinke's practice session.
"It went well," Maier said. "I didn't do any throwing or blocking, but just receiving went fine. It started coming back like old times."
After the summer of 2003, the Royals switched Maier to third base to end his catching career.
"That was the last time I had gear on or anything," he said.
Later, Maier was moved to the outfield and he started Thursday's game as the center fielder and leadoff batter. He's confident he can catch if it becomes necessary.
"I'll keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't. But, if need be, I'll get in there and do what I can," he said. "Calling the game would have to come from the bench, but the rest of it -- I'm confident I can at least catch the ball."
The Royals might have called up a more experienced catcher, such as Triple-A Omaha's Matt Tupman, and returned Maier to that club temporarily.
But Hillman wanted Maier to stay because of regular center fielder David DeJesus' recurring back problems. That's the reason that Hillman decided to rest DeJesus on Thursday.
Utilizing a catcher who hasn't played the position in five years is a limited risk, Hillman said, if Buck were to be injured.
"It's a risk from a standpoint of one day -- finishing off one day. It's not a risk for all four days because, if something happens, we can make a move," Hillman said.
The backup to Maier as a catcher would be utility player Esteban German.
The Royals cannot fill the roster spot vacated by a suspended player, meaning they have just 23 players available with Greinke and Olivo out. So, in order to bring up a catcher, one of the current 23 would have to go.
For now, no roster moves.
"I'd rather stand pat. Mitch has done a good job when he's had the opportunity to play," Hillman said. "With the instability right now of how David is feeling day-in and day-out, I'd rather keep the roster the way it is right now. I think he [Maier] gives us more latitude."
DeJesus was out of the lineup on Sunday, returning to go 0-for-8 in the first two games of the White Sox series.
"There's definitely a lack of focus on what David is swinging at, and I think most of that goes back to how he's feeling physically on any given day," Hillman said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.