05/21/09 8:25 PM ET
Homer off Mo one Reimold won't forget
Historic long ball helping give O's pause in outfield battle
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Orioles rookie outfielder Nolan Reimold's first career home run -- which came in the ninth inning of a blowout loss on Wednesday night -- didn't seem to have much significance at first glance. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, though, Reimold became the first player to hit his first home run off Mariano Rivera.
And in a way, that bit of trivia shouldn't be too surprising. After all, as a closer, Rivera works only in the late innings and in pressure situations, which isn't the most likely time for a rookie to hit a home run. Rivera has already allowed five home runs this year, but he hasn't given up more than that since his rookie season.
Enter Reimold, who saw three cutters from Rivera and countered with his own power stroke.
"He hit one off a future Hall of Famer," said manager Dave Trembley. "I think being in the right spot at the right time, that's what that's all about. Reimold is getting an opportunity to play and doing a nice job making the most of it. We'll continue to see how he develops and keep giving him opportunities to succeed."
Reimold, a former second-round draftee, started his season at Triple-A Norfolk. He busted out of the gate with a .394 average and nine home runs in his first 31 games en route to a promotion. And once he got to the Major Leagues, Reimold engaged in a friendly debate with teammate Lou Montanez.
"He hit a home run in his first at-bat," said Reimold of Montanez, a fellow competitor in the fight for playing time. "I was like, 'This is my one shot to get in the history books.' I guess we can say I did that, though, which is pretty nice. It obviously is pretty exciting to hit my first home run off a future Hall of Famer."
And judging by the game situation, that confrontation almost never happened. Rivera entered a two-run game in the eighth inning and escaped a pressure situation. The Yankees went on to score six runs in the bottom half of the inning, and Rivera went back to the mound for the ninth armed with an eight-run advantage.
"It was weird because I actually did kind of want to face him," Reimold said. "I've watched him so many years on TV. I wanted to stand in the box and see what it's like. He got me down, 0-2, pretty quick. I was taking the first pitch all the way. Then the second pitch came, a cutter -- it started in and looped right over. He just left that [third] one up and over the plate a little bit and I was able to -- it's a cliché -- put a good swing on it."
Reimold was originally a long shot to spend much time with the Orioles this season, but he was the beneficiary of a strange confluence of circumstances. First, left fielder Felix Pie began to struggle with the bat. Then Luke Scott and Adam Jones went down with minor injuries, causing the need for an early promotion.
The Orioles chose to play Reimold on a regular basis after he joined the team, but they'll have to reevaluate matters when Scott is ready to return from the disabled list. That could happen as soon as Tuesday, and Trembley said he'll have to choose between Pie, Reimold and Montanez to see who gets demoted.
"When he came here, [I said] he would get the opportunity to play," Trembley said of Reimold. "I think I've followed through with that. We'll have to see where we're at when Luke Scott comes off the DL. Until that point in time, I will continue to do the very best that I can for him to get as much of an opportunity as I possibly can."
And in Reimold's mind, that's perfectly acceptable. The 25-year-old is enjoying the experience while it lasts, and he knows that his time will come at some point in the not-too-distant future.
"I just came up here, and I'm just going to have fun with it and do what I can to help the team win," Reimold said. "Whatever happens -- whatever plans that they have for me -- hopefully in the long run, it will work out for me in the end. While I'm up here, I'm going to enjoy every minute of it and try to play good baseball."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.