Reimold continues making a case to stay in with Orioles

Outfielder appears to be back to form after losing confidence last season

March 26, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. — — The Orioles will have to set their Opening Day roster by Thursday afternoon and one of their most interesting decisions is what to do with outfielder Nolan Reimold.

When spring training began, it was viewed almost as a formality that Felix Pie would make the team as a fourth outfielder and Reimold would start at Triple-A Norfolk. That remains the most likely scenario but Reimold has given the club plenty to think about by thoroughly outplaying Pie.

In 23 spring games, Reimold has batted .314 with three homers, 10 RBIs and a team-leading 11 walks. Pie has batted .236 with one homer, seven RBIs and two walks in 19 games.

"He's done a lot of things to make people continue to think good things about him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Reimold. "I'm glad I got to see him completely healthy and in a good frame of mind. I didn't see some of the things [last year] that I've seen here in camp."

While a strong spring may not result in an Opening Day roster spot, it has allowed Reimold to distance himself from a difficult 2010 season. He batted .207 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 39 games and spent nearly 3 ½ months at Norfolk last year as he tried to find his swing and regain his confidence.

The Orioles nearly traded Reimold and reliever Alfredo Simon to the Tampa Bay Rays for shortstop Jason Bartlett during the winter meetings. However, they opted to keep Reimold after getting reports of the progress he was making in workouts with former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson throughout the offseason.

The 27-year-old, who is another year removed from Achilles surgery, said that he feels better physically than he has "in a long, long time," and he is a much better player than he was at any point last season.

However, Reimold may be a victim of his contractual status. Unlike Pie, Reimold has an option remaining, meaning the Orioles can send him back to the minors without exposing him to waivers. There is also a belief in the organization that Reimold, after a lost 2010 camp, needs to get steady at-bats and he likely wouldn't get those as a fourth outfielder to start the season.

That role would include serving as a late-game defensive replacement for Luke Scott, and also handling pinch running and pinch hitting duties, and the occasional start. Pie would appear to be a better fit for that role and he can also play center field, but there remains a scenario where both make the club.

"It always feels good to play well. I worked hard to put myself in position where I could play well. Hopefully, I can carry spring training into the year," Reimold said. "I've thought about [my roster chances], but it is beyond my control. You just have to play hard every day and see what happens."

Bergesen sore, Tillman gets opportunity

A day after getting nailed in the right forearm by a Denard Span line drive, Orioles starter Brad Bergesen said that his arm felt a little stiff, and he was going to take the day off from throwing. However, the club is hopeful that Bergesen will improve enough to pitch again Tuesday on three day's rest. That would keep him in line to start next Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays' in the third game of the regular season with Jake Arrieta getting the ball for the home opener on April 4.

"I was expecting to see more swelling, [but] I'll tell you, it looks pretty good," Showalter said when asked about Bergesen. "[We] may have dodged a bullet there in more ways than one … We will know something the next couple of days. That's one of the potentials. We got about three, four scenarios last night and this morning, we can go in some different directions for him to continue to compete."

Bergesen is dueling with Chris Tillman and Zach Britton for that final rotation spot. Britton will pitch Monday against the Detroit Tigers in the Orioles' exhibition finale, and Tillman gets the start Sunday in a split-squad game against the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium.

Asked how important of a start it is for Tillman, Showalter said, "He's going to be pitching for the Orioles this year. We like him and we think he's got a big upside. Where he starts this year isn't going to be completely predicated on how he pitches tomorrow. I'm not going to put that on him, publicly."

Will he or won't he?

Showalter acknowledged that the status of oft-injured reliever Koji Uehara could force the Orioles to delay some decisions on the composition of their bullpen.

After throwing in two minor league games over the last week, Uehara is scheduled to return to Grapefruit League action and throw an inning Sunday against the Red Sox. Showalter has said that if Uehara has no setbacks with his elbow, the right-hander could break camp with the club.

"If he stays on track physically, we will make that call," Showalter said. "We don't have to [set the roster],I think, [until] 4 o'clock on the 31st. We might take all that time."

Around the horn

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