SARASOTA, Fla. — While most of his teammates were in the back of the Ed Smith complex taking batting practice Saturday, Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold was on another field taking ground balls at first base.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail cautioned to "not read too much into it," but the timing of it certainly was intriguing. Oriole officials have said all spring that they had no plans to use Reimold at first, and there he was on the half field adjacent to the clubhouse with infield coach Juan Samuel before the final Grapefruit League game of the spring.
"It's just to increase his versatility and our options," MacPhail said. "Spring training is the time to do those things."
Reimold admitted he was surprised when Orioles manager Dave Trembley approached him earlier in the day and asked him to take ground balls at first.
"It just came up," Reimold said. "I guess you never know. I said, 'I'll give it a try to see what comes up.' Maybe it will help me stay in the lineup down the road."
Asked if he was comfortable at first, Reimold said, "I haven't played there since high school. I guess I'm comfortable playing there if down the road that's where they need me. But I'm told I'm still an outfielder."
Reimold was actually asked to take ground balls at first base in minor league camp two springs ago, but he said nothing ever came of it.
Reimold's session with Samuel comes a couple of days after Trembley announced that Felix Pie, who has been one of the team's best players all spring, and not Reimold will start the first two regular-season games in left field.
Trembley made a point in his pre-game media session to speak about former Oriole great Mike Cuellar, who died Friday from stomach cancer at age 72. Cuellar was a spring training instructor for the Orioles for two years, specializing in working with the left-handed pitchers. He and Trembley forged a strong relationship, talking on the phone about once a week, before he became extremely ill in January.
"If there ever was a guy that epitomized what the Orioles are all about, it's Mike Cuellar. I talked to him in December," Trembley said. "All he ever wanted to do is help, help the Orioles. It's really a big loss."
Trembley addressed the club about Cuellar's death before Saturday's game, and the team held a moment of silence in his honor.
Gone but not forgotten
After he was informed that he'd be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday, outfielder Lou Montanez packed up his locker and then affixed it with a sign that said, "Gone Fishing." He hasn't been seen at the Ed Smith Stadium complex since, though he isn't breaking any team or league rules.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players have 72 hours to report after they are optioned. So while the Orioles would undoubtedly have loved to have Montanez playing in minor league games the past couple of days, there is nothing they can say or do to force him to be here.
"He has that right," MacPhail said. "I don't really think it's that big of a deal."
Reached Saturday, Montanez said he has been home in Miami "recuperating," but he plans on driving to Norfolk no later than Sunday to continue preparations for the start of the season.
"I got enough at-bats in the big league camp where I'll be ready for Opening Day," he said.
Around the horn
Pie, who was plunked near the right ankle by a pitch from New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera on Friday and left the game immediately, went 0-for-1 Saturday and pronounced himself ready for Opening Day. ... Catcher Chad Moeller, who the Orioles released earlier this week at his request, signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees. ... Orioles minor league outfielder Matt Angle will have magnetic resonance imaging taken to determine whether he broke the hamate bone in his right hand while taking a swing Friday.