Orioles' Reimold limping through camp

Outfielder protects repaired Achilles, gets ready for Opening Day

March 17, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

FORT MYERS, FLA. — — The ball was hit into the hole between shortstop and third base, and Nolan Reimold, as usual, broke quickly from the batter's box.

Reimold beat out a handful of balls like this last season, turning apparent outs into infield hits. On Tuesday, he arrived at first base a half-step after Minnesota Twins shortstop Brendan Harris' throw, and then jogged back to the Orioles dugout with a limp.

This spring has been a struggle for Reimold, 26, who is trying to balance getting ready for the season with protecting his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon.

"It's definitely been tough," he said. "I'd like to be out on the field as much as I can, but I'm trying to be smart about it. Once the season rolls around, I'll be going all-out. But I'm doing what I can to get ready for the year and make sure I'm healthy."

Reimold went 0-for-3 and stranded six runners in the Orioles' 3-1 victory over the Twins. He's 0-for-12 with three strikeouts this spring.

"I feel like I just need to get some at-bats," Reimold said. "I feel pretty rusty. Usually, it takes me a little while to get going, especially in the spring."

The Orioles have said they'll be patient with Reimold, who had surgery Sept. 23. At the time he was shut down last year, he led American League rookies in home runs (15), on-base percentage (.365), slugging percentage (.466), walks (47) and total bases (167).

When Reimold has played this spring, he usually has two days off before getting into another game. But with Opening Day less than three weeks away, Orioles manager Dave Trembley is trying to get his young outfielder more at-bats. Reimold will play again today.

"He hasn't had as many at-bats as everybody else," Trembley said. "We've been guarded of him because of the heel. He's had some soreness. We have a lot of time to catch him up, but I'm not to the point yet where I'm going to start pushing him. ... There's nothing that he's doing that's wrong. I just think he needs some more time."

Orioles officials have said they are not seriously considering starting Reimold on the disabled list and giving him more time to rest and get some at-bats away from big league pitching. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said recently that the club will have to be selective early in how much and where Reimold plays, which should lead to an increased role for Felix Pie.

Reimold, meanwhile, said he'll be fine by April 6, when the Orioles open the season against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

"I want to start the year and be up there with my team. That's the mind-set I'm going to have, just try to get ready for April 6," said Reimold, who has been wearing orthotics to help him deal with the discomfort. "I've been playing through soreness for a long time. ... I knew I had to get the surgery and get it taken care of for the long run. I have a little bit of pain now, but it should be 100 percent later."

Early this spring, Reimold learned the importance of pacing himself. He hit an infield chopper in his first at-bat during an intrasquad game and ran as hard as he could. He eventually had to pull back before reaching the bag, and he felt plenty of soreness after the at-bat.

Reimold said his heel, which was shaved down during the surgery, has felt much better, and doctors have told him he's not at risk of re-injuring it. For now, he has to deal with not being able to run at full speed.

Trembley said he spoke with team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens about Reimold.

"When he has to run, he can run," Trembley said. "We'll still be careful with him, but we'll move him along and get him ready. He's doing very well for the type of surgery that he had."

For Reimold, the hardest part is he came to camp intent on building on his impressive rookie campaign in which he established himself as the Orioles' regular left fielder.

Recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, Reimold hit his first major league home run off Mariano Rivera and then became the first Orioles rookie since Leo Gomez in 1991 to hit a game-ending home run, on May 27 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Overall, he reached base in 85 of 104 games and recorded 25 multihit games.

"It's good to look back on it and be happy with the season you had, but you never can be satisfied," Reimold said. "I'm going to look to build on last year and keep improving. You try to get better with everything you do. I'll never be satisfied. It's easier to get up here than to stick up here. I just want to stay up here."

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