O’s want McLouth, but he should want them, too

The Orioles say they’d like Nate McLouth back. He played well for the last two months of last year and was the Orioles’ best hitter in the playoffs.

Now that he is a free agent, McLouth can sign with any team and the Orioles will likely have competition as they try to retain the 32-year-old lefty hitter.

But maybe one thing they have in their favor is that Baltimore just may be the best place for McLouth. Shouldn’t he want to return to the Orioles as well?

McLouth was with the Pirates his entire career until they traded him to Atlanta in June 2009. But McLouth failed with the Braves, batting just .190 in 85 games in 2010 and hitting .228 in 81 games a year later. That led him back to the Pirates for this past season. He was batting just .140 when he was released at the end of May.

Not that he owes them anything for this reason alone, but the Orioles took McLouth off the scrap heap at a time when he probably wasn’t wanted by many clubs at all.

But maybe McLouth should want to return to the Orioles because they were the team that helped him finally get his dormant bat going again. Last year, he went from hitting .140 with the Pirates to batting third at one point for the Orioles and starting on a playoff team.

In this mid-September interview, McLouth told me about the two minor league coaches that helped him find new life in his bat.

McLouth hit .268 in 55 O’s games and then went 8-for-26 (.308) in the playoffs. He went 7-for-22 in the American League Division Series and tied for third in the AL with five playoff RBIs.

Plus, the Orioles provide opportunity for him. They may well have an opening for him to start in left field. At worst, he would be competing with Nolan Reimold for playing time there and he must realize that Reimold’s injury history makes him less than a sure thing.

McLouth was a good fit in the Orioles clubhouse. He seemed well liked and respected and his low-key personality played well on an O’s team full of low-key, but very driven and hard-working players.

The Orioles and McLouth seem suited for each other. If the club is competitive with its offer, you have to wonder if McLouth doesn’t feel exactly that way, too.

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