PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The cracking sound of a mid-90s fastball hitting the head of Orioles left fielder Nolan Reimold on Friday set off a collective gasp throughout the seating bowl of Charlotte Sports Park.
The Orioles had their first serious injury scare of spring training as Reimold took a pitch off the left side of his jaw in the first inning of the Orioles’ 3-3, 10-inning tie with the Tampa Bay Rays. The 2-1 delivery from Rays right-hander Alex Cobb sent Reimold to the ground holding the side of his face.
The sharp sound had everyone wondering whether the pitch had hit the earflap of Reimold’s helmet or his jawbone directly.
“One we’ve all heard at some point,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not a pleasant sound, I can tell you that. He got as much jaw as helmet.”
Reimold — who finally this year has his chance to be the Orioles’ everyday left fielder — collapsed to the ground facedown for several minutes while being attended to by Orioles head athletic trainer Richie Bancells before he was helped to a cart and transported to Peace River Regional Medical Center for tests.
Showalter checked with Bancells for updates on Reimold “about every 10 pitches” until he was told in the late innings of Friday’s game that a CT scan showed no broken bones, just a loose tooth — remarkable given the sound of the impact.
“The lowlight was Nolan getting hit, and the highlight was hearing he didn’t have a break,” Showalter said. “I didn’t like his chances [at first].”
After a mostly star-crossed major league career, Reimold finally has the opportunity to play a critical role with the Orioles. Showalter said he wants to see Reimold win the everyday left-fielder spot, and he’s a promising candidate for the leadoff hitter position in the lineup if second baseman Brian Roberts can’t return from multiple concussions.
Reimold’s rookie season in 2009 was cut short by a left Achilles tendon injury. The next year, he struggled and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk in May to retool his swing. Even last year, he had to fight Felix Pie for playing time.
Now, coming off a year in which he was healthy and had a .247 batting average, .328 on-base percentage and .453 slugging percentage in 267 at bats, the Orioles are eager to see whether Reimold can built on it.
And now this, Showalter thought.
“He’s been through a lot,” Showalter said. “That’s all what’s going through my head. He’s finally going to get a chance to play this year and everything’s in order, and all of a sudden you’re standing out there with him. Your heart’s in your throat for no other reason than that.”
Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta, who threw a pair of hitless innings in his first Grapefruit League start of the season, was among the players concerned about Reimold’s status.
“When he did stand up, [his face] looked a little swollen, but hopefully the helmet took the majority of the impact and it's just a nice bruise,” Arrieta said. “We're all praying for him.”
Cobb said the pitch got away from him and he felt horribly about hitting Reimold. He said the two are represented by the same agency, and he planned to get Reimold’s phone number and reach out to him to make sure he was OK.
“That’s probably the worst feeling you can have as a pitcher is seeing someone like that, being the cause of a guy taking a step back in his career, possibly,” Cobb said. “It’s just something you never want to see on a baseball field. And when you’re the cause of it, it’s a feeling you can’t describe.”
Asked what Reimold’s next step would be, Showalter was simply happy with the test results.
“Right now, we just feel blessed that we got that news back,” he said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times