BALTIMORE - The Orioles didn't worry a bit about their leadoff hitter from the middle of 2003 through 2009, when Brian Roberts ably filled the spot nearly every game, providing a good on-base percentage and speed on the basepaths.
But Roberts played only 59 games because of a variety of injuries in 2010 and only 39 in 2011, when a concussion ended his season on May 16. A parade of players filled in for him without distinction.
With Roberts still suffering from concussion symptoms - and no timetable set for his return - the top spot in the lineup was a major question mark coming into this season. Nolan Reimold got the first crack at it, batting first Friday on Opening Day against Minnesota.
"I'm excited," Reimold said before the 4-2 win. "Get up there first and set the tone. Try to get on base and score runs is my focus."
It didn't work out that way in the first game. Reimold went 0-for-4 with four groundouts in his sixth career start as leadoff man.
He swung at the first pitch he saw, tapping meekly back to the mound. But his performance won't be graded on one day. He's likely to get the majority of the starts at the top of the order, but others like Endy Chavez and perhaps Robert Andino may also bat first at times.
"There's going to be some moving chairs there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before the game, although he later added, "Hopefully not. We'll see."
Reimold has spent most of his major league career hitting sixth or seventh in the order and said he didn't plan to alter his approach.
"I don't think so. I mean, the goal is always to get on base and get hits," he said. "In that aspect, nothing changes. ... I just want to have consistent, good at-bats at the top of the order, make the pitcher work a little bit and get on base."
The 28-year-old left fielder is a somewhat unconventional choice for the top of the order because he came up to the majors as a power hitter and has never been much of a threat on the basepaths.
Reimold hit 34 home runs in his final 160 minor league games before debuting with the Orioles in 2009. He hit 15 homers in 104 games as a rookie, but he failed to build on his strong start and bounced between Class AAA Norfolk and Baltimore the past two years.
The 6-foot-4 Reimold has decent speed, using his long stride to get down the line quickly - as was evidenced in the third inning when he nearly beat out a routine grounder to shortstop. But he has only 15 stolen bases in 231 major league games.
"I don't think he's going to clog up the bases," Showalter said.
Reimold knew going into spring training that he would be considered for the leadoff spot. While he didn't tear up the Grapefruit League, finishing with a .179 batting average in 18 exhibition games, he realizes how important this season is to him. It's just the second time he's made an Opening Day roster and he's hoping for his first full season in the big leagues.
"It's a big opportunity for me," he said. "It's an opportunity to help the team and that's what I want to do. That's a big responsibility for me, batting leadoff, but I just want to take the same approach and have an impact in a positive way."