Pie, Reimold must force way onto a roster full of new talent

Once touted prospects with clear paths to regular playing time, outfielders must impress or risk heading elsewhere

February 19, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — — Felix Pie entered the clubhouse Friday morning, said a quick hello to several Orioles and then made a beeline to one of his new teammates. Pie, his equipment bag still in hand, grabbed Vladimir Guerrero from behind and gave him a bear hug.

So much for the potential hard feelings.

"For me, I'm not mad," Pie said. "I'm happy Guerrero is here. He can help the team win. I know I have to do my job to be the starter in left field. That's what I'm going to try to do. Like I said, the manager is going to make the decisions on who is going to start in left field."

For all the excitement surrounding Guerrero's arrival, which became official Friday, the addition of the designated hitter significantly impacts three Orioles. Luke Scott, who had the best season of his career in 2010 as the team's primary DH, now becomes the everyday starter in left field.

Pie, the former top prospect and Orioles' Opening Day starter in left field last season, is now the top candidate to serve as the team's fourth outfielder, a role he has struggled with in his career. And Nolan Reimold, who appeared to have a firm grip on the starting left field job at this time last season , may now be destined for Triple-A Norfolk, where he spent nearly 3 ½ months during a disastrous 2010 campaign.

"He's a great player. Of course they are going to sign him," Reimold said of Guerrero. "I just got to take care of myself and my business and hopefully I can help the team out this year."

For one day, Pie and Reimold said all the right things, and the Orioles are hardly worried about Scott, who has long said that he doesn't want to be a regular DH and he should be playing the outfield.

But the situation with Reimold and Pie still bears watching. When he was with the Chicago Cubs, Pie lost his confidence, fell into manager Lou Piniella's doghouse and then irritated several of his teammates with his dour demeanor.

When he lost his starting job to Reimold with the Orioles in 2009, Pie handled it poorly, sulking at the end of the bench rather than doing something to force then manager Dave Trembley to give him another opportunity. A stern berating from Scott, one of his closest friends on the team, and the work of former hitting coach Terry Crowley were instrumental in lifting him from his malaise.

Reimold, meanwhile, suffered through his own confidence issues last season while struggling to make a successful return from offseason Achilles surgery, and deal with off-the-field distractions. He hit just .207 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 39 games for the Orioles. He performed a little better during his time at Norfolk, batting .249 with 10 homes and 37 RBIs in 94 games but those numbers are hardly befitting of a player who was a serious American League Rookie of the Year candidate in 2009 before he was shut down with the Achilles issue.

"There is a place for them. They got to go get it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "The way we sit right now in February could be different than … at the end of March. You keep all your options open and see what presents itself. Let's get to camp, see where things stand for a while and the pieces may start moving. I hope not. I'm just trying to get the 25 we are going north with."

Showalter said that it's not impossible that both Pie and Reimold make the club and he keeps five outfielders but he acknowledged that "We all know the reality of the way it looks like it may work out."

If he's not traded — and that possibly exists later this spring — Pie would clearly be the frontrunner to stick on the club over Reimold. The 26-year-old showed glimpses of realizing his vast potential last season, batting .274 with five homers and 31 RBIs in 82 games. His tools, namely his speed, would give Showalter plenty of options late in the game.

He's also the superior defensive player, which is important because Showalter figures to take out Scott, considered by scouts a below average outfielder, late in games with the Orioles in the lead.

Then, there is the fact that Reimold still has a minor league option remaining, meaning the Orioles could send him down to the minors without exposing him to waivers. Pie doesn't have a remaining option.

"He's got to get after it and make it tough on us. He controls this," Showalter said of Reimold. "It's not going to be a pure statistical evaluation either. We'll see where he is. Obviously, we had some [trade] opportunities with him in the offseason and we decided that we want to find out for ourselves. It's unusual to have a guy at 27 [years old] with options, but it's not going to figure into the makeup of the roster because a guy has options. We're going to try and take the best 25."

Reimold spent a significant part of the offseason working out in California with former Orioles outfielder and fitness fanatic Brady Anderson. He said today that he is "100 percent" healthy and where he is at now compared to last year is "night and day."

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