The Orioles announced this evening that they have avoided arbitration with Nolan Reimold by agreeing to a one-year contract. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that he’ll make $1 million in 2013.
Reimold was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 29-year-old got off to a hot start last season, hitting .313 (21-for-67) with five home runs and a .960 OPS over his first 16 games, but he didn’t play another game after April 30 due to a herniated disk in his neck. He ultimately opted for season-ending surgery in June after multiple epidural injections failed to do the job, but he’s expected to be ready for spring training.
Reimold owns a .261/.338/.455 batting line and .794 OPS over first four seasons in the majors, but he hasn’t played more than 89 games in a season since 2009. If all goes according to plan, he’ll get at-bats between left field, first base and the DH spot in 2013.
Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.
It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.
Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.
I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.