VIERA, Fla. — Nate McLouth had opportunities this winter to go somewhere he’d be assured of consistent playing time. Instead, the veteran chose to sign a two-year contract with a Nationals club that already boasts three well-established starting outfielders.
“There were other options,” he said. “But I know that I liked this situation. It was one I was real comfortable with and real excited about.”
Signed in December for $10.75 million, McLouth arrived at Space Coast Stadium on Saturday, three days before position players are scheduled to report. He joins the Nationals after a nice bounce-back season with the Orioles in which he hit .258 with 12 homers, 31 doubles and 30 steals in 146 games.
The odds of McLouth receiving anywhere close to that much playing time in Washington are slim and would likely require an injury to Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth or Denard Span. The 32-year-old, though, is perfectly fine with that, recognizing that his contributions will have to come in small portions along the way.
“I think it’ll probably be kind of a fluid situation,” he said. “Being able to play all three outfield positions helps. … But no expectations. It’ll just be probably a situation that kind of evolves.”
Upon signing McLouth, general manager Mike Rizzo noted that the Nationals have needed their fourth outfielder to start roughly 80 games each of the last three seasons. In his ideal world, that wouldn’t be necessary this year, but Rizzo wanted to make sure the club was better-prepared to deal with the unforeseen.
If he doesn’t get regular at-bats, McLouth still believes he can stay sharp and productive, having learned over the years how to deal with sporadic playing time.
“I just need to keep myself — if I’m not playing — just stay in the mold and the flow of the game on the bench and kind of trick yourself into thinking you are playing even if you’re not,” he said. “So, just keeping your head in the game. And when you see those situations that may present themselves later in the game to where you’ll be involved, you’re ready.”