Reimold could be powerful figure

Despite Keys outfielder's recent slump, organization remains upbeat about him

August 07, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

Minor leagues For several years, Orioles officials have listed a power-hitting corner outfielder as one of the club's biggest needs. They may choose to shop for one on the free-agent market.

But the club also sees hope on the horizon in one of its own draftees, Single-A Frederick outfielder Nolan Reimold.

Based on his size and performance in his professional debut last season, Reimold has been described as one of the steals of the 2005 draft. He started this season looking like a future star, but a recent slump has depressed his numbers and tempered expectations somewhat.

Reimold is batting .255 and ranks second on the Keys in home runs with 14 and RBIs with 58. He was one of the franchise's two representatives in the Futures Game on All-Star weekend. But he admitted he's been in the worst slump of his life recently.

"I need to try and be more consistent," he said. "When I'm going good, I'm really good. When I'm bad, I'm really bad."

Orioles officials say they're not concerned.

"This is the first time he's really gone through anything like that," Orioles minor league director David Stockstill said. "But everybody goes through it.

Reimold said Frederick manager Bien Figueroa called him into his office recently and told him the same thing. He's trying to take it to heart.

"The best thing to do is not to dwell on it," Reimold said. "That's why you're in the minor leagues. You have to learn the mental game, which is just as important as the physical. It's also better pitching than I've ever faced, so it's harder to break out."

The Orioles drafted Reimold in the second round out of Bowling Green. He had an excellent junior season there, with 20 homers and 62 RBIs. But many scouts saw him early in the season, when he was slumping. The Orioles, however, were sold on his combination of power and speed in a 6-foot-4, 207-pound package.

Reimold rewarded them by hitting .294 with nine homers and 30 RBIs at short-season Single-A Aberdeen last year. He was named the top prospect in the New York-Penn League by Baseball America and ranked just behind Nick Markakis among the club's positional prospects entering this season.

When he's going well, as he did early at Frederick, he hits with power to all fields, reaches base at a .400 clip and even steals regularly.

But a few months into the season, Reimold hurt his foot and then hurt his back while lifting weights. The injuries kept him out for two weeks, and he wasn't the same hitter when he returned.

"I started pressing and developed some bad habits," he said. "I was pulling off the ball too much, trying to pull every ball."

Scouts say that Reimold's swing gets too long when he's in a slump. That explains his 93 strikeouts in 94 games.

Despite his recent struggles, his .389 on-base percentage is one of the best on the team.

"I've always tried to be a patient hitter," he said. "If the pitcher isn't throwing strikes, I try not to swing. If you're struggling and you can still draw walks, it's a big plus."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

On deck

The Delmarva Shorebirds will be giving away hats on Thursday night as they begin a four-game homestand against the West Virginia Power.

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