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The Ups and Downs of Nolan Reimold

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Has Nolan gotten over his troubles?
Has Nolan gotten over his troubles?

Next week when the rosters expand, it's likely that Nolan Reimold and Chris Tillman will join the Orioles for the remainder of the season. Both have had a tumultuous year, both have failed to live up to expectations, and both are playing pretty well down at Norfolk right now. I'll have more on Tillman later, but for now let's take a look at where Reimold has been this year, where he might be going, and what that could mean for the Orioles.

Reimold's failed season has been one of the most disappointing things about 2010, and considering the team, that's saying something. After murdering the ball at AAA Norfolk for thirty games in 2009, Reimold was called up on 14 May due to injuries by Luke Scott and Adam Jones and immediately impressed us all not only with his power but also his patience. He continued to woo us throughout the summer, leading the Orioles in On-Base Percentage and second only to Luke Scott in Slugging Percentage. He hustled on every ground ball despite a nagging Achilles injury and he racked up a walk rate of 11.4%. When he was shut down on 17 September to rest his bum heel, many of us were convinced that Reimold was the future left fielder/designated hitter/first baseman of the Baltimore Orioles, but like many things for the Orioles this season, so far it hasn't gone according to plan.

Reimold had his frayed Achilles tendon repaired surgically last fall but despite lip service in Spring Training that he was good-to-go, he obviously had issues. Of the seventeen games he played in ST, ten were as designated hitter and there were reports from the clubhouse that he couldn't even walk normally. And after having declared Reimold the everyday left fielder earlier in the winter, the Orioles announced that Felix Pie would play most of the opening series in Tampa Bay because of the artificial turf at Tropicana Field. It's hard not to question the Orioles management about this. If he was injured to the point that he couldn't play on Opening Day and if he's still hobbling around seven months after surgery, why not just put him on the disabled list to start the year? We all saw what Reimold is capable of when healthy, why jeopardize that? Whatever the reason, that's just what the Orioles did. And to make matters worse, after telling the world that Reimold won't play on turf so that his Achilles can rest, they stuck him out there on day two when Pie injured his shoulder. 

With Pie on his way to a two month stay on the disabled list, Reimold spent more time in left field than might have been intended for his rehabilitation and it just didn't work out. Never known as a great defensive outfielder, he looked even worse out there than usual. He suffered at the plate as well, hitting just .205/.302/.337 in 29 games before he was sent down to AAA on 11 May. Part of that could be ascribed to bad luck (his BABIP in 2009 was .316 and had dropped to .242 in 2010) but he also wasn't swinging as often as he had been and his fly balls didn't have much oomph (that's the scientific term, oomph). Was this a result of his injury? We can't know for sure but it makes some sense.

Of course it was just a few weeks before Reimold got sent down that he was revealed to be involved in all sorts of baby mama drama. The rumors were mixed, from his ex-fiance being a crazed nutter who man trapped him seven ways to Tuesday to Nolan being the big bad MLB player who ditched his lady for the high life and changed his phone number to avoid her. We'll never know the details, which is fine with me; Reimold deserves some privacy. But whatever the issue, it likely affected Reimold's performance in some manner. In fact, once with the Tides he left the team for personal issues twice. The first time was for the birth of his child and the second was for undisclosed personal reasons.

After being sent down to Norfolk, Reimold didn't fare any better. He continued to struggle in May, hitting .122/.204/.265 in 14 games. He improved in June, hitting .258/.337/.348 with 2 HR, 2 2B, and 8 BB, and even more in July when he hit .235/.361/.382 with 4 HR, 3 2B, and 18 BB. In mid-July as he began heating up at the plate Reimold gave an interview in which he said, "This has been the worst six months of my life." That made me sad. His rush to return from injury, his personal drama, his apparent lack of confidence, all contributed to Reimold's very, very disappointing year. But has he moved on from it?

In 22 games in August, Reimold has hit .333/.485/.480 with 2 HR, 5 2B, and 20 BB. If you go back to July 15th, he's hitting .286/.441/.437. All the way back to July 1st, still a very good .272/.417/.426. I don't know about you guys, but it sounds to me like Nolan is back. Left field has been claimed by Felix Pie and for now that isn't going to change. But Reimold has begun playing 1B (29 games so far) at AAA, so if he can keep his numbers up in the majors the Orioles will have a tough decision to make: Luke Scott or Reimold at 1B in 2011? Either way they win because the other one can DH and should something happen to Pie or Adam Jones, both can move to left field. That makes the picture for next season a little rosier, doesn't it?