BALTIMORE -- Outfielder Nate McLouth got a phone call from Orioles manager Buck Showalter last Tuesday during the Winter Meetings that had a hefty impact on the free agent's decision-making.
"He kind of threatened me, so I feared for my life if I didn't [re-sign]," joked McLouth, who officially signed a one-year contract Thursday afternoon. "It was a good conversation, and it was important to know that the leader of the dugout and of the team wants you back. It was nice to know."
A key cog for the O's down the stretch, McLouth emerged as the club's best hitter in the postseason, with a .308 batting average and five RBIs in six playoff games. He had a .268/.342/.435 line in 55 games for Baltimore last season, emerging as the club's starting left fielder and providing a spark from the leadoff spot with Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis on the disabled list.
Signed to a Minor League contract after being released by the Pirates, McLouth, who flourished with regular playing time at Triple-A, was back in the Majors by August. He had said all along that he would like to return to Baltimore, and it was a mutual feeling.
"I'm glad it's the case," said McLouth, who will make a base salary of $2 million, with another $500,000 available in incentives. "And having such a good time last year and enjoying my time there was a big part of it. You want to be comfortable where you play. It's not maybe the most important thing, but it's certainly up there on the list.
"They were my first choice all along. As I mentioned previously, since the end of the season, during last season, it was just a very enjoyable time for me personally. And it's a good team. That's the bottom line, we have a chance to try to duplicate what we did last year and then some and move past that."
What McLouth's role will be has yet to be determined -- at least publicly -- as the left-handed hitter will join the right-handed bat of Nolan Reimold, who is coming off season-ending neck surgery, as an option in left field.
"The thing about Nate is Nate's a guy who's able to play all three [outfield positions]," Showalter said of retaining the Gold Glover. "To have Nate back as a guy that gives us some real flexibility in the batting order and the outfield and [on] any given day off the bench. He's got a pretty good bloodline. He's had some real impressive experiences at the Major League level already.
"Where guys like him fit and where they play, they find a way to fit in. And at this point, I got some things in mind, but I want to see how it all shakes out."
McLouth's presence will also add speed to the Orioles' lineup, which is something executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette sought to improve this winter. Duquette said last week during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., the club was done adding Major League outfielders, and he reiterated again Thursday that the priority is to bring in a middle-of-the-order bat before the offseason ends. So far, McLouth has been the organization's biggest move of the winter.
"Nate did a great job for us last year when we brought him up," Duquette said. "He helped solidify the team defensively and he hit with some power. He got on base and was an excellent basestealer. And he did a terrific job when Nick Markakis went down moving into that leadoff spot.
"He was a real gritty player and our fans connected with him, and he really liked the 'football atmosphere' -- he termed it -- at the ballpark. So, that looks like it's going to be a good thing for the team to bring back."