By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
7:23 PM EST, December 13, 2012
The last time Orioles fans heard from Nate McLouth – just after a towering fly ball off his bat was lost, along with the Orioles' season, somewhere near the right-field foul pole at Yankee Stadium in Game 5 of the American League Division Series – the soon-to-be free agent outfielder said he wanted to remain in Baltimore.
On Thursday, that wish officially became reality as the Orioles announced a one-year deal with McLouth that will pay him $2 million with $500,000 of performance-based incentives. The teams had agreed to terms more than a week earlier.
Signed to a minor league contract in June, McLouth became one of the Orioles' top players throughout their playoff push, especially once he took over the leadoff spot for the last month of the season. He was also the team’s best player in the postseason, hitting .308/.321/.462 with one homer, five RBIs and three stolen bases in six games.
Captivated by being a part of the team’s magical run, McLouth wanted to return for more.
“They were my first choice all along,” McLouth told reporters Thursday. “It was just a very enjoyable time for me personally and it’s a good team. That’s the bottom line. We have a chance to kind of duplicate what we did last year and then some and move past that. For those reasons, it was my first choice.”
Re-signing McLouth was one of the Orioles’ top priorities during last week’s winter meetings in Nashville. And the two sides agreed to terms last Wednesday. Eight days later, after McLouth passed his physical, the signing became official.
“I thought it was important for the team to resign Nate,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “I really appreciate Nate’s desire to come back to Baltimore. He had some other options, which I’m sure were attractive to him. I appreciate him resigning here.
“He was there when he needed to be there in clutch situations. I think he’s a good and solid addition to our club, and he fits in with the rest of our ballclub.”
While an injury to Nolan Reimold last season opened the opportunity for McLouth to play left field, McLouth said he’s confident he will have the opportunity to play next season even though Reimold is returning from neck surgery.
“I think [it is] very much like when I signed the minor league deal last season,” said McLouth, who can play all three outfield positions. “It was important also for me to look for a good opportunity personally and again I absolutely see that here, and I guess spring training, as it often does, will determine exactly what that is.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t indicate how he plans to split time between McLouth and Reimold, nor whether McLouth would hit atop the order again, but he said having McLouth makes the Orioles stronger.
“I’ve found out through the years that guys like him, as far as where they fit, they find a way of fitting in,” Showalter said. “At this point, I’ve got some things in mind, but I want to see how it all shakes out. He helps our depth in the outfield. It’s hard to find a guy like him who can play all three places and hit one, two or three or somewhere down in the order if he has to. There aren’t many guys like that floating around. That’s why we’re excited to have him back.”
The Orioles’ top priority last week was to obtain an outfielder, and McLouth was atop their wish list. When McLouth received a call from Showalter early in the week – “He kind of threatened me, so I feared for my life if I didn’t [sign],” McLouth joked – he admitted to having a sense of urgency.
“There’s always the realization that you’re not the only option,” McLouth said. “That’s obvious. And being that this was the place I wanted to be, I think for me, there was a sense of not wanting the opportunity to go by. Urgent? Maybe. But I was confident with what [would] happen and it did.”
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