SARASOTA, Fla. -- David Lough was quietly one of the Orioles' most consistent contributors during the second half of last season, batting .337 from June 1 on. But it was hard to rebound from a slow start, and Lough, who suffered a concussion last spring, said Monday morning that the issue lingered at the start of the season.
"It was more of a mental thing," Lough said. "It was with me, I kind of felt it a little bit. And with baseball, you've got to have a clear mind a little bit. If it's stuck in your mind, it's just going to be worse. And that's how it was for the first half of the season. And after that, I was like, 'You know what? I've just got to get let it go. Play baseball.' And I ended up playing a lot better."
With no Nick Markakis or Nelson Cruz, Lough will get more of an opportunity this spring. But there's a lot of competition, making the outfield situation one of the O's more interesting spring storylines.
"I told [executive vice president of baseball operations] Dan [Duquette] the other day, it's the guy that they traded for," Lough said. "And hopefully he's here to stay."
It was Duquette who made a bold statement at last year's FanFest regarding Lough, telling Orioles fans that the new acquisition -- whom they acquired in a trade from the Royals -- was better than the departed Nate McLouth in nearly every facet. But Lough, whose concussion-like symptoms first came up during March 8th's inside-the-park homer, couldn't shake off the spring injury, batting .159 in his first 38 games (98 plate appearances).
The early struggles didn't help endear him to Orioles fans, and Lough -- despite a solid second half -- had trouble climbing out of the early hole, finishing with a .247/.309/.385 line in 112 games.
"He was as good statistically as a player that we had the second half of the season," manager Buck Showalter said. "I think he's got another level he can go to. I'm excited about him. Obviously when you look at him, he's a very young bodied guy."
Lough, who had six percent body fat at the team's annual spring testing, is a fitness addict who was featured in ESPN Magazine's "The Body" issue last year. He's hoping to follow up his strong second half and show Orioles fans he can do more than just be in shape.
"I was on a roll and I was doing some good things for the ballclub," Lough said of his season from June 1 on. "I felt like that was the old me, swing-wise and having my mental approach going up to the plate. It's just trying to bring that into Spring Training [this year] and put those first 100 at-bats from last year aside and have a good spring."
Added Showalter: "He's got a chance to be a late bloomer. I like David, he's one of those guys you can count on. Great shape, very committed to doing the things he's got to do to be ready. He's a piece."