Orioles Spring Training: Kyrie eleison, Nate McLouth's in left
"Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play today. Look at me, I can be in left field."
-Nate McLouth (in my imagination)
I picture Nate McLouth strolling around the Sarasota clubhouse this spring, whistling the tune to John Fogerty's Centerfield and singing the lyrics above with extra emphasis on the words left field as he passes Noland Reimold's locker.
McLouth deserves to have a little swagger about him this spring. He enters camps as the Orioles' presumed left fielder, and with good reason. Last season the guy lent stability to a position that, prior to his arrival, had been a patchwork quilt of disappointment.
Eight different players started in left field for the Orioles through 55 games last season. That group committed five errors in 65 chances. McLouth arrived from Pittsburgh in August and - how's this for coincidence - played 55 games in left field. He had one error in 93 chances. Kyrie eleison indeed!
It's hard not to appreciate McLouth's renaissance in Baltimore. He had some great moments at the plate - homering in the same game as Lew Ford in Baltimore after doing so in Norfolk a month earlier; holding the leadoff spot in check after Nick Markakis went down for the year with a broken thumb; homering against the Yankees in the playoffs once ... or twice? However, what I came to appreciate most was his speed on the basepaths and in the outfield. The little guy who did the little things.
Regardless, the hearts of many Orioles fans still belong to Nolan Reimold largely because of Reimold's tantalizing offensive potential. Camden Chat provides a nice summary of Reimold's brief-but-sensational ups and all-too-familiar downs in the post "The Curious Case of Nolan Reimold." If you have limited time to read about the Orioles, Zach Wilt provides a pithier summary over at Baltimore Sports Report: "I’ve seen more unicorns than I’ve seen healthy Nolan Reimolds."
If Reimold's bat and body are both healthy in 2013, Buck Showalter will be working to find him plate appearances. Few people pictured Mark Reynolds as a first baseman, not even the player himself, but Buck isn't afraid to experiment, which means Reimold isn't limited to left field. First base and designated hitter are obvious possibilities. Heck, after watching Chris Davis pitch at Fenway Park last season, I can't say for certain that Buck won't find Reimold at-bats by having him toe the rubber in Interleague play.
So here we are again wondering what will come of left field, the former home of the renowned John Lowenstein-Gary Roenicke platoon. Things are a bit more ironed out than they were when Felix Pie, Lou Montanez, Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott all were in the mix to the play the position. Nevertheless, there's still one-third of the Orioles outfield that leaves room for surprises this spring.
Some spring training storylines arrive pre-packaged in beat reporters' carry-on bags while others are "late arrivals" that emerge from the action on the field. For a classic example of the latter, see Jake Fox - or, for fans of O's history, Johnny Orsino. There aren't as many surprises to be had in Sarasota this year given the stability of the O's roster, but it seems we can always count on left field to provide us with some intrigue.
[Image: Norm Schimmel]