No one in the Orioles clubhouse asked Colby Rasmus to go into details on why he left the Tampa Bay Rays last summer, he said. The time for that has long past, especially after the Orioles spent the past six weeks watching one of the club's veteran free-agent signings steadily prepare for the season and prove he can contribute in 2018.

That's all Rasmus wanted to do when he decided to return to the game, but if anyone wanted to know why he stepped away, he'd be happy to tell them — and he's sure they'd understand.

Advertisement

"Everybody in this room are baseball players — all of us have pretty much been playing since we were little," Rasmus said as spring training wound to a close. "I feel that I would be the same way. I wouldn't try to dig on somebody.

“The game is rough. The game is hard. I've been playing since I could walk, so it ain't like I just, you know, kind of stumbled into this thing and made it to the big leagues. From the time I was two years old, I was working for this dream. And I played eight-and-a-half years. ... I've got a family. I've got a wife and three kids and my wife was pregnant last year. There was just a lot going on, and I could explain it to them if they wanted, but I feel like after they hear my explanation, they'd be cool with it. Because we all know."

Rasmus was in the midst of a fine season last summer with the Rays, posting a .281/.318/.579 batting line with nine home runs in just 37 games and compiling 1.1 wins above replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs, when he went on the disabled list with a hip injury.

To that point, it was on track to be one of the best seasons in Rasmus' eight-plus years in the majors, where the former first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals has a .242 career average with a .749 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 165 home runs.

But Rasmus left the team rather mysteriously, with a statement from the Rays at the time only saying that he had stepped away. To that point in his 30 years, baseball consumed every facet of Rasmus' life. He knew he was playing well, but the hyper-competitiveness that defines every player who reaches that level wore on him.

"Baseball is life, and the rest is just details, like the shirt says," Rasmus said. "But at some point, that crushes your other life. It just consumes everything that normal life has, and the further you go in it, the more normal life can just kind of get away from you."

Normal life for him last summer was two daughters back home with his wife, Megan, expecting a third. And the game, he said, "was driving me crazy."

Glossary of baseball's most useful advanced stats and how to use them

In an effort to provide the best and most complete baseball coverage possible, there's been an increase in the use of analytics and advanced metrics on these pages in recent years. Here's a rundown of some of the most frequently used ones to reference as the season goes on.

"I just needed some time," Rasmus said. "I needed some time to run my dogs and mess with my cows and live a little bit of a normal life. And what I found out was that a normal life is tough for somebody who has played baseball forever and been in this lifestyle so long. That's why I felt like I wanted to come back — because I felt like I still had some good left, some good to the game, and I feel like I can help a team to win some baseball games."

That he ended up returning with the Orioles is a fit on a lot of levels. For starters, the club needed a left-handed hitting outfielder and had a vacancy in right field, all of which Rasmus fills. Baltimore has been a last-chance saloon for veterans needing to re-establish themselves in the league for much of the last decade.

Despite signing a minor league free-agent deal, manager Buck Showalter told him when he signed that he needed Rasmus to make the team. He operated under the assumption that if he was healthy, he'd be on the club, and though he was on the bench Opening Day because of the pitching matchup against Jake Odorizzi, he's expected to be the primary right fielder going forward.

As he prepared for that responsibility, Rasmus found the Orioles' set-up in Sarasota, Fla., on a veteran team that allowed plenty of leeway for individualism in terms of getting ready for the season, quite appealing.

"That's comfortable for me, because I do things a little bit different," Rasmus said. "I kind of like the way I do things, and I feel that's helped me the last few years, to be able to do it that way. ...

"I've been feeling pretty good at the plate. I had a pretty good idea of how I was trying to work my swing before I came, and if I came back, I wanted to be able to help produce. If I wasn't going to be able to do that, I would have just stayed in the house. But I wanted to come and be able to help a team win some ballgames, and so far since I've been here, it's a great group of guys. I love the vibe.”

Those who have known Rasmus can tell last year's frustrations are behind him. Third baseman Tim Beckham, who was traded to the Orioles last July shortly after Rasmus left the Rays, says he can tell there's a difference.

Advertisement

"He's a gamer," Beckham said. "I want him on my team every day. ... He fits in perfectly. He's a perfect fit for us, and I knew he would be. He's a good teammate, and he's a professional. He goes about his business in a professional manner. I wouldn't expect anything less from Colby."

Rasmus is excited to be associated with more than just Beckham and former Rays pitcher Alex Cobb in an Orioles uniform, though.

"It's a good group of guys — Adam Jones leading the way," Ramsus said. "He's obviously awesome to be around. I've played against him for a while in this division, and it's cool to be on the same side with him and see him work and see how he goes about his business.

"And obviously, Manny [Machado], Beck, I played with Beck in Tampa — now Cobber coming over. I get along with the pitching staff very well. A bunch of good guys. I've faced all of them, pretty much, so we have that mutual respect for each other — I know they’re bad dudes, and they know I can play a little bit. It's a good feeling."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement