BALTIMORE — Once thought to be one of the Orioles’ most talented prospects, outfielder Nolan Reimold now hopes to be able to simply contribute again at the major league level after two spinal fusion surgeries.
Prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox, the 31-year-old was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk as the Orioles optioned left-handed relief pitcher Cesar Cabral to the Tides. Reimold was batting sixth and playing left field in his first start for Baltimore since July 13, 2013.
Of course, the 2005 second-round pick had to wait his turn on a minor-league contract this spring, batting .286 with two home runs, 12 doubles, 13 RBIs, five stolen bases, and a .739 OPS in 194 plate appearances for Norfolk. After a slow start, Reimold was hitting .422 over his last 14 games in the International League, which earned the promotion with the Orioles receiving poor production in left field all season.
“Getting at-bats pretty much every day down at Norfolk [is] what I really needed to do after the last couple years,” said Reimold, who knocked on wood when citing his ability to stay healthy this season. “It was really good for me to be down there and play every day and start hitting the ball. Whenever the call comes, you’re always happy. I’m up here and I’m not taking it for granted. I just want to make the best of it.”
Baltimore left fielders have hit just .200 with a horrendous .550 on-base plus slugging percentage this season, meaning the bar isn’t exactly a high one for the veteran.
In a perfect world, Reimold would offer manager Buck Showalter another option at the top of the lineup where Manny Machado has become the leadoff hitter out of pure necessity. Serving as the No. 1 hitter to begin the 2012 season, Reimold was hitting .313 with five home runs in 16 games before a neck injury suffered in Chicago eventually led to the two surgeries that brought his career to a screeching halt.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether Reimold is capable of being that kind of a contributor again, but the Orioles have liked what they’ve seen from him at Norfolk to earn the opportunity.
“The guy is capable of doing a lot of things,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s performing and running really good just like we know Nolan can do. We all like Nolan and the story, but this isn’t some charity. We think he can help us win. I don’t know what else you could do to get back here physically.”
Reimold is now in his second stint with the Orioles after being designated for assignment last summer when a thriving first-place club no longer had room on its 25-man roster for him. After playing briefly with Toronto and then Arizona, he elected to sign a minor-league deal with Baltimore over the winter.
After failing to make the 25-man roster at the start of the season despite a strong spring, Reimold still hoped an opportunity would come before next month’s opt-out date when he could have elected free agency.
“This is where I wanted to be. I feel like the organization knows me better,” Reimold said. “They care more. There’s not too much loyalty in professional sports, but I do feel a sense of loyalty here at Baltimore. I think that they care about what happens to me here, so that’s one of the big reasons why I chose to come back here. It’s been a while since I’ve been here, so I’m really happy.”