Reynolds Looks to Swing into Several Roles
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the 15 newcomers to the 40-man roster this winter and the role they can play moving forward.
By Christian Petrila
When Mark Reynolds was first signed, Indians fans saw it as the type of safe signing that they were used to. Little did anyone expect that Reynolds would be the first domino to fall in what was arguably the most eventful offseason in Indians history.
Reynolds signed a one-year, $6-million contract on December 18. He was thought of as an immediate upgrade over Casey Kotchman, who struggled through 2012.
Primarily expected to be a first baseman, that all changed after the signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn as well as the acquisition of Drew Stubbs. Suddenly, Reynolds was essentially converted into the team’s designated hitter.
“He’s going to DH now more than he would have before because of Bourn, but we don’t want him to be just a DH,” Manager Terry Francona said.
Francona also said that Reynolds also embraced the switch to the DH role.
“I think he was excited,” Francona said. “I think he thought we got better, just like everybody else. Immediately, Chris [Antonetti] called those guys that were possibly affected that night and then we met with each guy individually the next morning.”
Reynolds’ patience at the plate has always been a concern, but he can produce runs. His “feast-or-famine” approach can lead to 200 strikeouts per season, but also 40 home runs. Reynolds struck out over 200 times in 2008-2010 with Arizona, leading the National League in strikeouts each season. He lead the American League with just 196 in 2011. However, Francona is not concerned about his tendency to whiff.
“The last thing I want to tell him to do is not strikeout,” Francona said. “That’s not going to work. That’s like telling a pitcher to not walk somebody. We’re looking for production. That comes in a lot of different ways.”
He was able to drop his strikeout rate a year ago, whiffing only 159 times in 538 plate appearances, but his home run production also dropped. Last season he hit only 23 home runs, his lowest since his rookie season.
Reynolds began his career in Arizona. His rookie season was in 2007, when he hit .279 with 17 home runs and 62 RBI in 111 games. He also struck out 129 times, but it still helped the Diamondbacks make it to the NLCS that year before getting bounced by the Rockies.
Reynolds spent three more seasons with the Diamondbacks before being traded to Baltimore for David Hernandez and Kameron Mickolio. In his time in Arizona, he hit .242 with 121 home runs and 346 RBI. He also struck out 767 times, including a single-season record 223 times in 2009.
In his two seasons in Baltimore, Reynolds’ batting average dipped to .221 with 60 home runs and 155 RBI. His final season with the Orioles was arguably his worst statistically, as he only hit .221 with 23 homers and 69 RBI, but the Orioles made the playoffs despite his struggles.
Reynolds began his career as a third baseman, but began playing first base regularly for the Orioles in 2012. The switch turned out to be great for Reynolds, as his fielding percentage was .995 in 2012 at first compared to a career percentage of .928 at third.
“The guys who had seen him more than me said he made the transition really well,” Francona said. “He went from a third baseman to first base. He’s definitely a little different the way he approaches it. Instead of stretching, he might layout, but he’s a definitely a pretty good first baseman.”
Reynolds is expected to not just serve as the team’s designated hitter, but continue to play first base, giving Swisher the freedom to still play right field when needed. While Mike Aviles is considered the back-up at third base behind Lonnie Chisenhall, Reynolds could serve as an option. Francona thinks he could see a little time at third base later this spring.
Whether he’s the DH, first baseman or third baseman, Mark Reynolds could contribute to the 2013 Indians in plenty of different ways. If he keeps his strikeout numbers down, he could have himself quite a 2013 season.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer