Minor League Insider: Rangers prospect Olt finally sees improvement

Posted Saturday, May. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Elsewhere on the farm Overall: Through Friday, the Rangers had the best overall record in baseball at 132-95, including the big-league team and minor-league affiliates. The top-four farm clubs had gone 102-78 for a .567 winning percentage, the second-best composite record among minor-league clubs in the majors behind San Francisco. Triple A Round Rock: Catcher Jose Felix has hits in eight of his last nine games through Saturday, and is batting .314 for the season. … Outfielder Joey Butler is batting .312 on the season with five home runs and 16 RBIs. Double A Frisco: Right-hander Wilmer Font had a 1.83 ERA over his first 15 starts. He has 27 strikeouts over 19 2/3 innings pitched this season.

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When he had trouble tracking the ball playing catch, Mike Olt knew he had to say something. His right eye had been bothering him for quite some time at the plate, but he thought it was more of a timing issue than medical concern.

But when it carried over to defense, there wasn’t a worse feeling than being at a corner infield position with bullets coming at him.

“That was when I really decided that it was going to be dangerous,” said Olt, a 24-year-old regarded as the Rangers’ best power-hitting prospect. “Not being able to fend for myself if a ball comes at me hard is not a good feeling to have.”

Olt last played with Triple A Round Rock on April 25, going 0 for 4 and seeing his season average dip to .139. It’s been a difficult month since then, with visits to multiple eye specialists to try to figure out what has caused blurriness out of his right eye.

How this issue developed might never be known, although it could be linked to a concussion he suffered when he was hit in the head by a pitch in November while playing in the Dominican Winter League.

Olt said there were a lot of “big, medical terms” to describe his condition, but he paraphrased by saying: “My right eye wasn’t producing tears and the glands had shifted, which can happen due to head trauma. So obviously I think it could have something to do with the concussion.”

The eye condition was unknown at the time, but early symptoms were there during spring training. Olt, who batted .194 in 19 Cactus League games, said he started seeing “a floater” in his eye that would go away once he blinked.

“It didn’t really affect me as much; I was just struggling with my timing and everything,” Olt said. “Then it slowly got to the point where when I blinked to refocus, my eye would get blurry because it was so dry. It wasn’t producing any lubrication, so when I got in the box and tried to blink and refocus, I’d have blurriness.”

That, of course, led to subpar at-bats for Olt. He was nowhere close to the player who hit 28 homers in 95 games at Double A Frisco last year.

Instead, Olt started this year with only one home run and 32 strikeouts over 20 games and 72 at-bats with the Express.

“I always have a plan when I’m in the box, looking for certain pitches,” Olt said. “And when I was getting those pitches, I’d just freeze. I just couldn’t pull the trigger on anything. It just wasn’t me.”

But good news has finally developed for Olt as doctors are getting close to a diagnosis. He believes they are close to a solution as eye drops and medication he has taken lately have helped substantially.

Olt has been cleared to participate in baseball activities, and reported to the Rangers’ complex in Surprise, Ariz., on Friday and worked out. He hopes it’ll be a short stay before he rejoins Round Rock.

“The first time I used the eye drops, it was night and day,” Olt said. “So I think we’re on the right track, so we’re going to get in some games and get it going. It’s been a tough month and it was frustrating, but we’ve definitely found a good lead on what’s causing all the problems.”

As far as a timetable for his return to Round Rock, Olt said: “We’re going to take it kind of easy in the beginning, but it should be a quick process. It’s all going to come from my comfort level, and I just need to get my timing back.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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