SARASOTA, FLA. — Nolan Reimold didn't have to wait long to find out if Orioles manager Buck Showalter was thinking seriously about him hitting in the leadoff spot if veteran leadoff man Brian Roberts is not ready to start the season .
Reimold was at the top of the lineup when the Orioles opened their home exhibition schedule against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night at Ed Smith Stadium.
Showalter said Sunday that he was weighing all the possibilities, but Reimold seemed like the most obvious, based on his career numbers and his overall skill set.
He might not look like a typical leadoff man. He's a big, rangy guy with good power, which are qualities that lend themselves more to a place in the middle of the order, but Showalter liked the way Reimold extended at-bats last year and sees him as someone who can be a solid on-base threat.
"Maybe I don't look the part as the leadoff guy, but I can run, hopefully get on base,'' Reimold said. "I don't have too much experience bunting, but we don't bunt all that often as a team. I've been working on bunting more for base hits here, so maybe I can incorporate that in my game a little bit. So, if I'm in the leadoff spot more often, I'll try to do more of those types of things."
Of course, Plan A would be to have Roberts back in the starting lineup and resuming his career as one of the premier leadoff hitters in the game. He is making daily progress in his comeback from multiple concussions, but there still is no timetable for his return to full baseball activity, so the Orioles are going to have to proceed as if he will not be ready for Opening Day.
Reimold's batting average over parts of three major league seasons (.256) isn't going to pop anybody's eyes out, but his .339 on-base percentage is second only to Nick Markakis (.365) among the players projected to be in the everyday lineup on Opening Day. If Roberts (.353) is ready, he would rank between them.
So, in Reimold's perfect world, would he be the leadoff guy?
"In a perfect world, I'd be in the lineup,'' Reimold said, "so, wherever I'm at is good with me. I'll be ready."
If it comes to that, Reimold won't be short on resource material to adapt to the leadoff role. He has Roberts to learn from and he trains daily with Brady Anderson, who is one of the great power leadoff guys in baseball history.
"I've been playing the game for awhile now,'' Reimold said. "I know what I'm good at and what I'm not so good at, so you don't want to force anything. But at the same time, you always want to look for other ways to get on base and other edges you can get in a game.
"I've talked to (Brian) before. I've talked to Brady before. It's the first game. I'll hit up Brian in a little bit and see what he has to offer. Just get as much advice as I can."
Speed isn't an issue. Reimold, by all accounts, is one of the fastest players on the team —something that became obvious when he returned to the lineup last season. He is one of the faster players in the league from home to first and — according to some of his teammates —he will be a force to be reckoned with at the top of the order.
"Everybody thought he would hit 20 (homers) and steal 20 (bases),'' Orioles shortstopJ.J. Hardysaid. . "He's one of the fastest players in the game."
Robert Andino, who also has been mentioned as a possible leadoff guy if he starts in place of Roberts again, gave Reimold a huge endorsement.
"I like Nolan at the top,'' he said. "He has good at-bats and has the power and the speed to lead off. He could be the next Hanley Ramirez."