Reimold optimistic he can solidify left field for O's
Slugger works way back from surgery while team could go after replacement
BALTIMORE -- Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold has been working out at his offseason home in Florida after officially finishing rehab a few weeks ago. Reimold had neck surgery on June 25, and while the 29-year-old is expected to be healthy for Spring Training, he hasn't been able to avoid the reports that Baltimore is looking to add a left fielder this winter.
"They can do what they want to do, but I'll be ready to go and I'll be ready to play," said Reimold, the O's Opening Day left fielder in 2012, who had just 67 at-bats before being shut down with neck spasms that -- despite several rehab attempts -- ended his season and resulted in surgery to repair a herniated disk and fuse two of the vertebrae.
"I will be planning on playing left field, unless someone tells me otherwise," said Reimold, who also plans on arriving early to this year's camp in Sarasota, Fla. "So that's what I will be focused on playing for the rest of the offseason. Obviously, I will take anything else [the organization does] and turn it into motivation to get better."
Reimold will get another X-ray on his neck in December to ensure the area is fully healed before going full bore in the weight room, although there are certain exercises he isn't limited in. He remains on track to have a regular offseason and progress back into baseball activities after Christmas, a routine he's had in previous winters, using the early part of the offseason to build up strength.
"I'm not going to load up my back with 400 pounds until I get the clearance to do it," said Reimold, who had a home gym built in his garage with help from special assistant Brady Anderson. "I'm not going to do anything crazy. I can do pretty much everything. Just be smart about it is pretty much my rule. It's what the doctors say, 'Just be smart about it.'
"Once I get the other X-ray that it's all healed and fused together ... that's the last step is to make sure it's all fused together, which it should be done by then. Because it was getting there last time [I had an X-ray], in September, so we want to make sure."
After a solid spring, Reimold hit .313 with five homers and 10 RBIs, posting a .627 slugging percentage in 16 games before hitting the disabled list on May 1. It was a frustratingly premature end to a season in which Reimold was slated to be Baltimore's starting left fielder, a spot the organization hasn't been able to solidify in the past few years.
"I would have loved to continue playing and played out the year and see where that would have lead," said Reimold, who hasn't had more than 300 Major League at-bats in a season since 2009, "but I have to start back over and there's nothing I can do about it now. But I will be doing everything I can to be ready."
And, in turn, the Orioles will continue to ensure there are options and depth on the roster. The team has remained in contact with free agent Nate McLouth -- who manned left field down the stretch -- and has been linked to Jonny Gomes. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told MLB.com on Tuesday that Baltimore made it clear at last week's General Managers Meetings that the club is interested in exploring trades for a hitter that can play first base/designated hitter, as well as left field.
And while Reimold said he understands the O's are free to make whatever moves they feel are best, he is focused on proving he can be relied on as a long-term solution in left field, despite the "injury-prone" label that has followed him around.
"I haven't missed any significant time since 2007," Reimold said. "I shut myself down at the end of the season in '09, when I was told it would be a four-month recovery for the Achilles [torn tendon surgery]. I missed the last few weeks to get a head start on that. [I] didn't miss any time in 2010, 2011.
"If they want to get another left fielder, they can go ahead and do that. But I will be ready to play and good to go."
Reimold owns a career .261/.338/.455 line in parts of four seasons with the Orioles, appearing in 246 games since his Major League debut in '09. He spent most of '10 with Triple-A Norfolk, and was part of a left-field platoon in '11, with Luke Scott and Felix Pie also getting playing time.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.