Miguel Olivo is having second thoughts about Albuquerque.
Nothing against the Duke City, but the veteran catcher didn’t really want to play for the Isotopes this season. Olivo signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers during the offseason but asked for his release in March when he learned he’d be headed for Albuquerque.
The Dodgers didn’t have to grant Olivo’s request and chose to keep him. Now he’s glad they did.
Olivo, who went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in Thursday night’s 2-1 Isotopes win over El Paso, has decided to look at the Triple-A assignment as a major league tryout. He can opt out of his contract June 1 and hopes to do enough to impress either the Dodgers or another club by then.
So far, so good.
Olivo’s hitting .372 with four homers and a team-best 15 RBIs. Better yet, he’s having a good time in Albuquerque.
“It’s a nice stadium, and we get really nice crowds,” Olivo said. “It shocked me a little bit. You don’t usually get crowds like this in the minor leagues. But people are proud of the team they have here, and I’m proud to be playing for them.”
At this point in his career, it takes quite a bit to shock the 35-year-old native of the Dominican Republic. Olivo’s been playing professional baseball since 1998 and has donned catcher’s gear for six major league teams.
Highlights? Olivo’s are off the charts.
His first major league at-bat came with the Chicago White Sox in 2002. He hit a three-run homer off Andy Pettite of the New York Yankees.
“It was amazing,” Olivo said. “Yankee Stadium, 45,000 people. I get three RBIs, and they show it over and over again on ‘SportsCenter.’ I didn’t sleep that night. I kept watching.”
Overall he’s hit 145 major league homers and driven in 488 runs.
Olivo also has caught two big league no-hitters. He handled the Marlins’ Anibal Sanchez’s no-no against Arizona in 2006 and helped guide the Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez through a no-hitter against Atlanta in 2010.
“I caught (Zack) Greinke in 2009 (in Kansas City) when he won the Cy Young, too,” Olivo said. “I’ve been very blessed in my career.”
There have been a few notable bumps in Olivo’s road, too. He’s credited with touching off a pair of bench-clearing brawls and, last season, opted to leave the Florida Marlins when they refused to release him in June. Olivo was placed on the restricted list and sat out the rest of the season.
“It was a little tough,” Olivo said. “Miami messed me up a little bit and I probably got too excited. I learned from it, though, and I was lucky enough to get another opportunity from the Dodgers.”
Olivo hoped to make the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster and sought his release when he did not. But it was more a matter of trying to land a backup job with another major league team than any dissatisfaction with the Dodgers.
Since joining the Isotopes, Olivo has been the consummate professional, manager Damon Berryhill said.
“Miguel still brings that energy and love for the game,” Berryhill said. “He’s handling our young (pitching) staff real well, and he’s been great in the clubhouse. Seems like he’s still hungry.”
Olivo makes no bones about the fact he wants to return to the majors. If he’s not with the Dodgers by June 1, Olivo will see whether another organization needs veteran catching help.
But if Albuquerque’s merely a proving ground, he still plans to enjoy his visit.
“Right now I’m just enjoying the moment,” Olivo said. “We’ve got a good group of guys here, and people have been good to me. I’ll just try to play my best and maybe LA will call. Maybe I have five years left in me, who knows?”