Jul 3, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nolan Reimold (14) hits a double against the Chicago White Sox during the seventh inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Put gently, the Orioles’ off-season has been quiet, but in terms of potential outfielders, their amps go to 11, or more precisely, 12. With last night’s singing of Tyler Colvin, the Orioles will bring 12 outfielders to big league Spring Training. Among them, six, Colvin, Delmon Young, Quintin Berry, Xavier Paul, David Lough, and Francisco Peguero were signed this off-season.
As the Orioles continue to bring in potential left fielders to play alongside center fielder Adam Jones and right fielder Nick Markakis, one man who used to fit squarely in Orioles’ plans must now be wondering if he’ll receive what appears to be his final chance to put his injury-addled career back on track — Nolan Reimold.
Reimold has been a frustrating player throughout his Orioles career. He has never played a full season in the major leagues, but has shown flashes of solid production in parts of five seasons. He is a career .252/.327/.439 hitter who has a good bit of power packed in his 6-foot-4-inch frame. However, since his first potentially full MLB season in 2010, Reimold has played 182 of a possible 648 games (about 28 percent) at the big league level.
Reimold spent 94 games in AAA Norfolk in 2010 after he was sent down due to a slow start, but most of Reimold’s time off the field can be attributed to injury. Most notably, Reimold endured a frayed left Achilles in 2009, a herniated disc in his neck in 2012, and spent nearly two months on the disabled list with a torn hamstring in 2013 before he underwent corrective surgery repairing a false fusion of his previously injured neck vertebrae July 23, ending his season with 40 games played.
Many Orioles fans are holding out hope that Reimold, now 30, can finally stave off the injury bug to contribute as a right-handed designated hitter or left fielder in 2014. He was cleared to fully participate in baseball activities over Christmas. But as the Orioles continue to crowd their locker room with other left field and designated hitter candidates, one has to wonder whether the Orioles view Reimold as the first option in either position anymore, even if he is healthy — something that Reimold himself seems unsure of.
“I’m excited to feel like I can be good again,” Reimold told MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. “Hopefully, everything works out and I can stay healthy and be productive. And if those things happen, it should be a good year. I’m pretty confident that it’s good enough to be cleared this time.”
He’s pretty confident it’s good enough?
“The nature of the injury just takes forever. It’s just really slow. The neck can be fine, but the symptoms, the arm and everything, takes forever to resolve itself. And the further you go along, the slower it goes. I think I’m pretty far along. It feels the best it has since this happened. There’s always room for improvement, but I shouldn’t have any problems.”
He thinks he’s pretty far along but has room for improvement and shouldn’t have any problems? His quotes don’t give the impression of a man who’s 100 percent sure he’s ready to return to playing professional sports. Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette doesn’t seem sure either, as evidenced by the other men that could be fighting for Reimold’s spot.
Enter Delmon Young and Steve Pearce, two healthy right-handed batters with established major league track records who could fit into the designated hitter of left field slot as easily as Reimold could.
Young, the most established player of the two, has been a professional .282/.316/.423 hitter in over 8 major league seasons. He lacks the defensive ability to be an everyday left fielder, posting fielding percentages of .947 and .960 in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Young likely fits into the Orioles primary DH role, where he would drastically improve the .236/.290/.418 slash line produced by Baltimore designated hitters last year.
With Young occupying the DH slot most of the time, Reimold and Pearce would likely be fighting for a spot as a platoon left fielder spelling left-handed hitting David Lough. Pearce is arguably coming off of his best professional season, batting .261/.362/.420 over 44 games with the Orioles. Those numbers are comparable to Reimold’s career averages — and Pearce is healthy.
Pearce vs. Reimold will likely be a battle to watch throughout Spring Training. If Reimold is unable to compete due to injury, it could make for the beginning of a disappointing end to a career with so much potential.