Orioles' Colby Rasmus 'a pretty easy fit' as club gets familiar with veteran outfielder

Sarasota, Fla — Veteran outfielder Colby Rasmus got the message he wanted from Orioles manager Buck Showalter when he arrived last week on a minor league contract, and to this point, the returns are exactly what each side has hoped.

"I told him when he came here, 'I need him to make this club if he can,’ ” Showalter said Friday, after Rasmus homered to center field as part of the Orioles' 10-8 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium. "And we'll give him a chance to do that. ‘This is what I hope happens, and it'll be up to you.’ He said, 'That's all I need to hear,' and he's going to run with it."


Rasmus' first home run of the spring came in his third Grapefruit League start, and he added a walk while scoring twice in the win. After an 0-for-3 debut on Feb. 26, he had a hit on Feb. 28 against the St. Louis Cardinals to open his spring account.

“My swing is feeling pretty good, with where I'm at,” Rasmus said. “I have a pretty good idea of what I'm trying to work on, and that's always a good sign, when you hit one out of the yard. But I felt pretty good with where I was at last year, and I was able to keep that same mentality and that same work ethic with my approach, and that's kind of carried over. It's like riding a bike, if you will.”


And while the sight of center fielder Starling Marté tracking the eventual home run to the fence and crashing into it — as if he was startled the ball carried to the wall at all — might belie a heavy bit of wind aiding it out, it's been more than his big swing Friday that has Showalter feeling confident in Rasmus. Showalter has reason to believe that the man the Orioles signed to be a front runner for an outfield spot has the mettle to win the job.

"Calm, professional," Showalter said. "There's only two guys with more major league service time in this camp. You've got to remind yourself he's been playing over eight years in the big leagues. That tells you how young he'd come up at. I've been listening to a lot of guys talk about what a good teammate he seems [to be]. He's been a pretty easy fit. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and you can tell he's got a plan now that he's trying to get done each day. Throw a little harder each day, run with a little more abandon each day. Each day, he's trying to get [better]. He knows."

“I just kind of an going with a mindset of trying to focus on my approach, kep it simple, and let it hang out in the game,” Rasmus said. “So far, I've been seeing the ball well and some of the stuff we've been doing, the work on the back fields, is helping. Some machine work with breaking balls and what I've been trying to do with my swing. It's kind of like getting back on a bike and riding again, kind of thing. I've been used to being out for certain amounts of time, whether it's injury or whatnot. Then I work my mind so when I get back in there, it's not too fast and the game's not too sped up. Really just trying to take it down, take it easy and hope that continues.”

Rasmus' signing, along with that of Alex Presley, came as the club entered spring training desperate for a left-handed-hitting outfielder to potentially slot in right field alongside center fielder Adam Jones and left fielder Trey Mancini.

That right field mix already included rookie Austin Hays and last year's Rule 5 draft pick, Anthony Santander, plus Jaycob Brugman and Joey Rickard, before the signings of Rasmus, Presley and Craig Gentry added competition to that front.

A veteran with a reputation both anecdotally and analytically as a strong defender in the outfield, Rasmus has most of what the Orioles' are looking for in that race. Performances like Friday’s will help, but so will durability and a positive outlook. Rasmus left the Tampa Bay Rays midseason in 2017 while dealing with a hip injury to reset and spend time with his family, and said he's come back refreshed. Showalter hopes that's the case.

"I'd love to be that good of a prognosticator, but I can't say I know him that well to say that," Showalter said. "All indications are he seems to be happy here. But we'll see. I wish I could say, 'Oh yeah.' But all the feedback I'm getting is real positive."

Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck contributed to this story.