Last season, Nate McLouth didn't even make his Orioles debut until August. But when the time came for Baltimore's first playoff appearance in 15 years, McLouth made quite the impact.
It was this production that prompted the Orioles to sign McLouth, 31, to a one-year contract for the 2013 season. Reports say the deal is worth $2 million with a possible $500,000 bonus available based on McLouth's number of at-bats.
"The Orioles were my first choice all along," McLouth said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. "During last season, it was just a very enjoyable time for me personally. It's a good team. That's the bottom line."
McLouth hit .268 with seven home runs, 18 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases in 55 games for Baltimore. In the Orioles' six playoff games, McLouth batted .308 with a homer, a team-high five RBIs, and three steals.
"We've got a chance to duplicate what we did last year and then some," McLouth said. "For those reasons, it was my first choice."
Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said it was important for the team to resign McLouth, and praised the defensive prowess the former Gold Glove award winner brought to the club.
"His defense along with the addition of Machado's defense really transformed the team into a top defensive club," Duquette said. "That really drove our capability to win games."
McLouth will have competition in spring training for left field with Nolan Reimold expected to return from injury. McLouth is confident that the team is a good fit for him.
"It was important also for me to look for a good opportunity personally. Again, I absolutely see that here," McLouth said. "This was the place I wanted to be. I think, for me, there was a sense of not wanting to let this opportunity go by."
Duquette said he thought it was important for the Orioles to resign McLouth and praised the job he did batting leadoff after Nick Markakis' injury.
"I really appreciate Nate's desire to come back to Baltimore," Duquette said. "He was there when he needed to be there in clutch situations. I think he's a good and solid addition to our club."
Baltimore went 35-16 with McLouth as a starter, and he hit first, third, sixth, and seventh in the lineup. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said having McLouth gives the team more flexibility in the field and in the lineup.
"Where guys like him fit and where they play, they find a way to fit in," Showalter said. "There's not many of those guys floating around. That's why we're excited to have him back."
Duquette and Showalter both said McLouth is a good team player and thought he did excellent at the end of last season.
"He kind of matches up with what we're looking for," Showalter said. "He's a baseball player, and you all know that's about as high a compliment as I can pay a guy."
Although it took until the Winter Meetings for the Orioles and McLouth to agree to terms, McLouth said it was nice knowing that Showalter wanted him to return.
"It was important to know that the leader of the dugout, of the team, wants you back," Showalter said. "I was confident it would happen, and it did."
NOTE: The Orioles named Bobby Dickerson third base coach on Thursday. Dickerson has been Baltimore's minor league infield coordinator the past three seasons. The 47-year-old has been a minor league coach or manager for the last 20 years in the Orioles, Diamondbacks, and Cubs organizations. Dickerson also played in the minor leagues for seven seasons prior to that in the Orioles and Yankees organizations.