Corey Patterson is back in an Orioles uniform. The center fielder has been summoned from AAA to take the place of a struggling and demoralized Nolan Reimold, who seems to have lost his confidence along with his swing. Saved by the move, at least for now, is Lou Montanez, the career minor leaguer who has a lovely knack for destroying minor league pitching but has had an terrible time keeping up with major league pitching. Patterson’s arrival, meanwhile, will make Orioles fans wonder how far this team has really come in the years since his departure after the 2007 season.
It isn’t Patterson’s fault however, that he happens to be the best option for the Orioles right now. Reimold’s .205 average is even worse than it looks, with fielding reminiscent of Magglio Ordonez in the outfield, and with vision at the plate that has only drawn 11 walks on the season. While it is true that Montanez has also struggled in the field and hasn’t been quick to add any offensive punch, he is more or less an expendable part of the Orioles long-term plan. Keeping him in AAA wasn’t going to help the 28-year old develop any more at this stage in his career, and his .115 average isn’t yet a tremendous concern given only 35 at-bats so far this season. Reimold however, is another case.
Anyone watching his most recent games can see Nolan pressing- at the plate and in the field. He is second guessing himself and his abilities, leading to half-measures that get balls lost in the grass and in the catcher’s mitt. His Achilles isn’t slowing him down anymore. His head has already stopped him cold. In his current state of mind he wasn’t going to contribute to the Orioles in any meaningful way, and had to go somewhere where he can work through his issues and return to the team. I have never quite been sold on Reimold as I watched him strike out far too many times in the minors and hit too many home runs that I didn’t see translating to the big leagues. Even his breakout year last year faded as he played injured, but his toughness and eagerness to be in the lineup never faltered. At this point it is clear that he will do more for the Orioles in Norfolk than he will in Baltimore. I hope he is still part of future of this team, but he can join the long line of Orioles who have needed a break to get their heads on straight.
All things aside, the Orioles are lucky to have someone with Patterson’s experience waiting in the wings, and for a brief period I was completely enamored with his physical gifts and range in the outfield as he made incredible defensive plays in 2006 and 2007. What did him in however was his terrible strikeout rate and the arrival of Adam Jones, who at the time of his acquisition was already better than Patterson. At this moment however, that cannot be said. As I wrote earlier today, he won’t revitalize the lineup, and he won’t be a good leadoff man if he is forced into that role. The Orioles will just have to put up with not having a leadoff guy for all intents and purposes until Roberts comes back. But Patterson, even if he can hit a paltry .230 – .250, can still help Baltimore win a couple more games here and there. If the team can salvage Reimold’s psyche and give Montanez a few more tries to redeem himself in the process, then they’re all the better for it.