The Orioles made outfielder Nate McLouth, executive vice president Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter and new third base coach Bobby Dickerson available today on a conference call. One-stop shopping for reporters. Always appreciated.
McLouth, 31, passed his physical and signed his one-year contract. He batted .268/.342/.435 with seven home runs, 18 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts over 55 games after the Orioles selected his contract from Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 4. In six postseason games, he batted .308/.321/.462 (8-for-26) with a double, a homer, five RBIs and three stolen bases.
McLouth is a career .248/.335/.421 hitter with 88 home runs, 290 RBIs and 99 stolen bases over eight major league seasons (2005-12) with Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the Orioles. He made the National League All-Star team and won a Gold Glove with the Pirates in 2008, when he also led the league with 46 doubles.
Showalter called McLouth during the Winter Meetings and made it clear that he wanted the left fielder to re-sign with the Orioles.
“He kind of threatened me and I feared for my life if I didn’t,” McLouth quipped. “It was a good conversation. It was important to know that the leader of the dugout, of the team, wants me back. It was nice to know.”
The Orioles were McLouth’s first choice all along.
“As I mentioned previously, it was just a very enjoyable time for me personally,” McLouth said. “That’s the bottom line. We’ve got a chance to duplicate what we did last year, and then some, and move past that. For those reasons, they were my first choice.”
The Orioles explored other options before reaching an agreement with McLouth.
“There’s always the realization that you’re not the only option. That’s obvious. And this was the place I wanted to be,” McLouth said.
“For me, there was a sense of not wanting to let this opportunity go by. Urgent, maybe. But I was confident it would happen and it did.
“I think deals get done when teams want players and players want to be with a team. That was the case and I’m glad it’s the case. Having such a good time last year and enjoying my time there was a big part of it. You want to be comfortable where you play. Maybe it’s not the most important thing, but it’s way up on the list.”
McLouth hasn’t been promised a certain amount of starts or a specific spot in the batting order.
“I think, very much like when I signed the minor league deal last season, it was important also for me to look for a good opportunity personally. And again, I absolutely see that here. I guess spring training, as it often does, will determine exactly what that is.”
Showalter said he’s got “some things in mind,” but he wants to see how it “shakes out.”
“Nate’s a guy who’s capable of playing all three outfield positions,” he said. “We’re hoping that Nolan (Reimold) is healthy. He was primed to have such a big year for us. With the potential to have Manny (Machado) all year and Nolan back, along with adding a guy like (Tsuyoshi) Wada at some point in the year, those things are exciting for us. But to have Nate back gives us real flexibility in the batting order and in the outfield and, on a given day, off the bench.
“He’s got pretty good bloodlines. He’s had some real impressive experiences at the major league level already. He takes a lot of pride in being in shape and being there with his teammates. He matches up with what we’re looking for. He’s a ballplayer. And as you know, that’s one of the highest compliments you can pay somebody. Guys like him find a way to fit in.”
The McLouth signing gives the Orioles 40 players on their major league roster.
“I thought it was important for the team to re-sign Nate,” Duquette said. “He did such a good job for us when he was recalled, and in particular when he was in the leadoff spot. His defense, along with the addition of Machado, really transformed the team into a top defensive club and that really drove our capability to win games.
“I really appreciate Nate’s desire to come back to Baltimore. He had some other options that I’m sure were attractive to him, so I appreciate him re-signing. He’s a good, solid addition and he fits in with the rest of the club. He’s a gritty guy. And a good basestealer.”
Duquette was asked whether today’s news that Josh Hamilton had agreed to terms on a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels could cause a domino effect that might reach the Orioles.
“When these big free agent signings happen, that usually opens the door for opportunities for some of the other free agents,” Duquette said. “I don’t know if there was another high-level free agent in this class and caliber of Hamilton, so it’s hard for me to say what effect it will have on the market, but I can tell you that we’ll keep looking for a capable bat to add to our ballclub.”
Coming up: Dickerson talks about his promotion.