Reimold: “At this point, I’m way further ahead than I was last year”

One of the decisions awaiting the Orioles involves outfielder Nolan Reimold and whether to tender him a contract for the 2014 season.

Reimold doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but he’s certain that he’ll be ready to play for someone in spring training.

Reimold told me that he goes to his rehab sessions two or three times a week and is having a much easier time with his recovery from neck surgery than the first procedure in 2012 that ended his season after one month.

“I think I’m pretty far along,” Reimold said during a phone interview. “The surgeon did a lot of different things that helped heal the bone faster. At this point, it’s probably almost fused up, but I’m sure he’s going to make absolutely sure before he says to do anything.”

Reimold, 30, underwent corrective surgery on July 23 to fuse two vertebrae at the Florida Spine Institute in Clearwater, Fla. He appeared in only 40 games, having spent almost two months on the disabled list with a small tear in his hamstring, and batted .195/.250/.336 with three doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs.

A pseudarthrosis, or false fusion, was causing irritation and compressing the nerve in Reimold’s neck. Dr. Robert Kowalski, a neurosurgeon who examined Reimold during the All-Star break, went in through the right side this time and replaced the old cadaver bone with a disc of Trabecular metal. Bone marrow from his hip was used for added benefit.

Afterward, Kowalski told Reimold, “You couldn’t drive a Mack Truck through that thing.”

“I’m wearing a bone stimulator 24 hours a day,” Reimold said, “which I wasn’t doing last time, nor did I know was available.”

Kowalski estimated that the vertebrae would be fused within three months, “which is where I’m at right now,” Reimold said.

“I’m due to get an X-ray in a week or so and see what he says. Last time, with what they did, he said it was very unlikely for anybody to be fused in that amount of time, and I was cleared to play.

“I’m not swinging or throwing yet, but he said I can start running. I’ve been working out, lifting lightly, of course. Everything is under supervision. And I feel good. At this point last year, I had so much muscle atrophy that it was going to take forever to get my strength back. That was not the case this time. It’s not near as bad as it was last time. At this point, I’m way further ahead than I was last year.”

Being ready for spring training doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for Reimold.

“I still have four more months,” Reimold said. “I had all the extra things done during surgery, which helped, obviously, to heal it a lot faster. It’s just a matter of doing my rehab for the muscles around my neck and upper back. And as soon as I’m cleared to do baseball stuff, I will do that, probably in the near future. And then I feel like I’ll be ready.

“I don’t think there’s anything that should prevent me from being 100 percent in spring training.”

It’s just a question of which camp he reports to in February.

Reimold appeared in 16 games in 2012 before his season ended in April, batting .313/.333/.627 with six doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs. He signed for $1 million and is arbitration-eligible again this winter.

MLBTradeRumors projected that he could make $1.2 million.

“I hope they tender me,” Reimold said. “I don’t expect to get a huge bump in salary like Chris Davis. I would settle for half of what he gets.”

Reimold laughs, knowing that Davis is due a huge raise from his $3.3 million salary after hitting 53 homers and driving in 138 runs this season.

“It’s a joke,” Reimold said.

Got it.

“I want to be back with the Orioles,” he continued. “I think I still have a lot to offer the team. I think things have been, I don’t know, very messed up the last couple of years for me. I just want to get all of this left behind me and try to put together a decent career.

“It’s been awful, not physically being able to play well, and when this happened, I had absolutely no idea what was going on in my neck. It wasn’t like last time when I just lost all my strength. This was more of a gradual up and down kind of thing.

“The last game I played in, that was the last straw that I had. I was hitting in the cage with (Jim) Presley and my wrist was breaking every time I made contact with the ball. I got out in a game and I had no chance.”

Reimold heard boos at Camden Yards in his last game on July 13 after striking out in all three at-bats. He struck out twice in three at-bats the previous night.

“It’s not really the note I wanted to end on,” he said. “To not be able to do what I should be able to do physically is pretty frustrating and I’m just glad and a little thankful that we caught it when we did, so I wouldn’t just be sitting on what was going on in there and making things worse.”

Reimold wants to play exhibition games next spring at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. He wants to be introduced to the Camden Yards crowd on the March 31 opener against the Red Sox. He wants a normal baseball life, with a chance to experience the postseason.

For now, he remains at his Florida home with his wife, Jenny, and their kids, working out and waiting for the go-ahead to start baseball activities. It’s been a silver lining of sorts that he’s had the chance to spend quality time with them.

“To be with my kids more is definitely something positive that I’ve pulled out of it, but I have to be able to provide for them, too,” Reimold said. “I enjoyed my time at home as much as I could. It’s where I want to be, but it’s not where I want to be. You know?”

Got it.

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