ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The first Tampa Bay batter of today’s game, Desmond Jennings, sent a long fly ball to left field that Nolan Reimold ran down before slamming into the wall. He held onto it despite the impact. A few of the Orioles probably held their collective breath.
Reimold didn’t play after April last season because of a herniated disc in his neck that required surgery and a lengthy rehab. He got the start in left today, collected two hits and had one scary moment.
“Well, I got the first dive out of the way in spring training against Minnesota, so it feels a lot better than it did early on in camp,” he said. “I don’t even think about it anymore.”
But a collision with the wall for the first out of the day?
“I know, right?” he said, grinning. “I got tested real quick. Good thing I got it. It feels good.”
The same feeling applied to being back in the Orioles’ lineup.
“It feels really good,” he said. “It’s been a long road, but it feels normal. It was definitely an exciting opening day for me since, all things considered, going through the long offseason and a lot of the rehab that it took for me to be out there.”
Reimold singled in the second inning and again in the eighth.
“Always good to get the first one out of the way, but I knew there was a lot of game left to play and that didn’t really do anything,” he said. “But it’s good to get the first one out of the way.”
Manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette always have considered Reimold and Brian Roberts to be additions to the club this season. They’re just in-house additions. Still counts.
“I think we can be a big help,” Reimold said. “Top to bottom, we have a real solid lineup, one through nine. Definitely with Brian, one of the best leadoff hitters for a long time down there in the nine hole now, that’s a big boost.
“Yeah, I think we’re both healthy and hopefully we can both produce, stay on the field and stay healthy.”
That’s certainly the plan.
“I think there’s personal satisfaction for all of us getting through spring training healthy,” Roberts said. “That’s what they always say. ‘What do you want to accomplish in spring training?’ Stay healthy. But I think on my end, yeah, it was something big for me to get out there and never have to go into the office and say, ‘Hey, I can’t go today.’
“More than anything, I was asking to play more and more, so I think that was good for myself and good for everybody else to see that I was ready to go.”
Roberts, batting ninth for the first time since July 2004, was reminded how much pleasure and excitement the game brings to him.
“It was fun,” he said. “Not that you forget how fun baseball was, but when you are out for such a long period of time, sometimes you forget what the atmosphere and the energy is like and just the joy of playing the game, so it was great.”
Roberts can appreciate what Reimold has gone through to get back on the field.
“I think it may be even harder as a young guy who hasn’t necessarily established himself, and they have a lot of hopes and dreams and things they want to accomplish, and so do I still,” Roberts said. “But at his age and where he is in his career, I know it’s been huge for him to get back out there and have his body feel good and feel like he can go out there and do what he wants to do.”
Now it’s up to Reimold and Roberts to remain healthy and justify the Orioles’ decision to stay in-house.
“Obviously, they could have easily gone out and tried to fill spots that haven’t been necessarily occupied every day in the last year or two, and they held tight and they believed in us as players,” Roberts said. “And I think that’s encouraging as well as giving you a lot of confidence to go out there and play.”