Galvanized Reynolds eager to make his mark
With Indians, veteran seeks continuation of last season's second-half surge
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Mark Reynolds looked over the Indians' roster and saw a collection of young talent. He saw a ballclub facing an uphill battle and an opportunity for everyday playing time. Reynolds figured it was a good fit for him to show he could return to his slugging ways.
With these factors in mind, Reynolds reached an agreement with Cleveland on Dec. 9 on a one-year contract to be the club's first baseman. What he did not realize was he was the first of many dominoes to fall.
"It was a good situation for me," Reynolds said.
Two days later, the Indians completed a blockbuster nine-player trade with the Reds and D-backs, reeling in outfielder Drew Stubbs, pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. Less than a month later, Cleveland signed Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal and inked pitcher Brett Myers to a one-year pact.
Then roughly a week into Spring Training, the Tribe signed center fielder Michael Bourn.
Sitting at his locker inside Cleveland's reorganized clubhouse, Reynolds does his best not to take credit for what's happened over the past three months.
"I just like to think it was because I signed here that all these guys followed me here," said Reynolds, who leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. "Obviously."
After a well-timed comedic pause, allowing his audience's laughter to dissipate, Reynolds returned to the point.
"I was really happy with everything that transpired after I signed," he said. "I think it went from going to try to prove myself and play every day and put up good numbers again to, 'We might have a chance to do some damage and win some games.'"
That said, the 29-year-old Reynolds is motivated to prove he is still a power hitter.
Last season with the Orioles, Reynolds had a down year by his standards. He landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career (thanks to a strained left oblique in May) and played in 135 games, marking his fewest in a season since his rookie year in 2007 (111 games). Reynolds' 23 home runs and 69 RBIs were also his lowest marks since his rookie days with the D-backs.
Overall, Reynolds hit .221 last season, with a .335 on-base percentage and a .429 slugging percentage. In his first 15 games at third base -- a position he handled fine in previous years with Arizona and Baltimore -- he was a mess, making six errors in 40 chances. By May 10, a day before landing on the disabled list, Reynolds was also hitting a paltry .191 for the O's.
"I had a strained oblique. You can't even cough with those things," Reynolds said. "I probably came back a little too early from that and tried to play through it. In the second half, I got healthy and I got confident. Once you get those two things, it kind of snowballs. I felt really good in the second half."
Cleveland is hoping Reynolds' second half is indicative of the player it signed.
"We brought him in early," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Cleveland struggled so much against left-handers last year, so getting that right-handed power bat was big."
Pure right-handed hitters combined to hit just 26 home runs for the Tribe in 2012. Painted in that light, even the 23 homers Reynolds launched last season would be greatly welcomed in Cleveland. The Indians are hoping he can do even more.
Beginning on Aug. 5 last year, Reynolds hit .247 with a .352 OBP and a .532 SLG over his final 52 games for Baltimore, which earned an American League Wild Card spot. During that stretch, his 15 homers were tied for the fourth most in the AL, his rate of one homer per 12.4 at-bats ranked sixth and his .884 OPS ranked 14th in the league.
Reynolds was especially productive against the Yankees. Over the final two months, he launched one homer per 3.71 at-bats against the Bombers, and enjoyed a trio of multihomer games against them. Only Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg (Tigers, 1938) had as many multihomer games against the Yanks in a single season.
"They hung me too many curveballs, I guess," Reynolds said with a grin.
Indians fans can daydream about Reynolds doing the same against Detroit.
There is still the issue of Reynolds' propensity for striking out. From 2008-11, he averaged 208 strikeouts per season. Reynolds is the only player in baseball history to have at least two seasons with 200-plus strikeouts, and he has three such years under his belt. In 2009, Reynolds set the single-season Major League record with 223 punchouts.
Reynolds knows his run production will overshadow criticism of his strikeouts.
Consider that in 2009, when he set that strikeout record, Reynolds also hit .260 with 44 home runs, 30 doubles and 102 RBIs for the D-backs. He also scored 98 runs and stole 24 bases. Reynolds thought it was interesting how the public outcry over his strikeouts seemed to disappear some after he pieced together that overall showing.
"That year, people kind of laid off a little bit," Reynolds said. "It's just something for people to write about. It's something that bothered me early on. Now, I don't care if there are a thousand articles about it. I don't even read it. I just watch golf on the Golf Channel and try to win baseball games."
Reynolds' desire to do whatever is needed to help the team was also put to the test this spring. When Bourn signed, it caused a chain reaction through the rest of the roster. Stubbs was forced to shift to right field, and Swisher was asked to move from right to first base. That left Reynolds -- a solid first baseman -- as Cleveland's primary designated hitter.
"I wasn't happy," Reynolds said. "Nobody wants to just DH unless you're in the latter part of your career. I'm 29 years old. I still feel like I have a lot to contribute. But I really respect the way they handled it. They brought us in, sat us down, told us what we were doing. And anything that makes our team better, obviously, I'm all for it."
Francona said he is going to make sure Reynolds sees action in the field this year, too.
"He won't just be a DH," Francona said. "I don't think it's good for him. He's not a DH. The way we're configured right now, he's going to get more at-bats as a DH than he would before, but I don't want to do that to him, either."
Given the players who followed him to Cleveland, Reynolds is eager to get this season started.
"Adding who we've added," Reynolds said, "it really gives us a shot and makes a lot of guys in here excited."