SARASOTA, Fla. - Colby Rasmus pulled back his long hair this morning, slipped a cap over it and declared that he’s ready to play baseball again.
The Orioles hung a No. 28 jersey in his locker. They’re also putting a lot of trust in him.
Seven months after he left the Rays and returned to his Alabama home to be with his wife and three children, Rasmus agreed to terms with the Orioles on a minor league contract and will compete for a spot in the outfield. He can platoon in right, he can back up in center and he can rediscover his love of the game.
“I was feeling my way through that,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of baseball in my day. I’ve played a lot of baseball since I was little bitty and I’ve got three kids. My wife was pregnant last year, so a lot was going on. I had a lot going on at the house. Just felt that I needed a little break.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel, so I got back to working out and mentally I feel good. I feel like I still have a little bit left to give to the game and show the game some respect and go out in a good way.”
Rasmus, 31, went on the disabled list in June with tendinitis in his surgically repaired left hip and on the restricted list the following month. Family was placed ahead of whatever fame he accumulated over nine seasons in the majors.
“It was good and it’s definitely going to help,” he said. “Baseball has been in my life since I was little bitty every year. As a big league ballplayer, professional baseball player, baseball is life. You don’t really have much off time. As soon as the season is over with, you’re getting back in the weight room and working out. And I worked out from the time I started working out at 8 or 9 years old to play in the big leagues and I just kind of hit a point to where I was like, man, I need to take a little break and enjoy some time with my family.
“My 8-year-old girl was in school, just had a boy who was 10 weeks old, so being able to spend time with them and keeping my wife feeling good through her pregnancy was important to me.”
There must have been a moment of clarity that struck Rasmus and led him back to baseball.
“I’d say it was just in the workouts and how I was feeling, getting those juices flowing,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that I was going to come back and be able to finish out the season and be able to play some good baseball. I wanted to go out on a good note. Thankfully here, I think this will be a good fit for me. I think it will be a lot of fun and I have a lot of respect for the guys here. Beck (Tim Beckham) is over here. I played with Beck a little bit and I think it will be a good time.”
The Orioles have held interest in Rasmus for several years and they lumped him with other left-handed hitting outfielders on the free agent market this winter while seeking to balance out their lineup and upgrade defensively. The talks gained momentum earlier this week and the sides reached an agreement.
“It was pretty quick,” he said. “As you can see it was a little late. I won’t say late, but it came together right there at the end. I wasn’t sure really what was going to happen. I was just sitting at home kind of waiting and my agent called and here we are.”
The seeds were planted back in Alabama after manager Buck Showalter visited Rasmus prior to the 2015 season. Rasmus chose the Astros, taking a little more money.
“It was definitely a good impression,” he said. “I thought we vibed together pretty well in the way he thinks and the way he operates. Kind of an old school mentality.
“I grew up in a household that was kind of that way. My dad was pretty rough, so that doesn’t bother me. It kind of helps me. So the meeting we had was good. It didn’t work out, but now here I am and hopefully it will be a good time.”
Passing the physical after undergoing hip surgery wasn’t a formality, but Rasmus made it to camp.
“I feel good,” he said. “I had my MRIs and X-rays yesterday and everything was good. I feel good. Coming off the surgery last year I felt good. I felt like I was playing good baseball, so I hope to carry that over.”
Rasmus batted .281/.318/.579 with seven doubles, nine home runs and 23 RBIs in 37 games with the Rays. He didn’t play after June 18.
“Excited to get back going,” he said. “A lot of good guys in here, some good ballplayers that I’ve had the pleasure of playing against. So it’s good to be on their team and I’m ready to get it doing.”
Explaining why the Orioles are the right “fit” for him, Rasmus said, “Just with the environment here. I’ve talked to Buck a few times. I like his mentality, the way he goes about the game and manages the game. I think it will be a good fit for me, kind of old school, because I just like to play the game hard, grit my teeth and go out there and go after it. That’s the feeling I have.
“I’m very thankful that they reached out to me, for sure. I’m happy to be here and hopefully I can pay that back in full by playing good baseball. That’s my goal.”