DENVER -- By the time the calendar flipped to February, Mark Reynolds found his baseball career in limbo. He had turned down a multi-year proposal to return to the Rockies back in October, which prompted them to instead sign Ian Desmond to a five-year deal with the idea that Desmond
DENVER -- By the time the calendar flipped to February, Mark Reynolds found his baseball career in limbo. He had turned down a multi-year proposal to return to the Rockies back in October, which prompted them to instead sign Ian Desmond to a five-year deal with the idea that Desmond would eventually become Benjamin Zobrist-plus.
For Reynolds, meanwhile, the offers didn't exactly pour in. Oh, he had a three-year proposal to play in Korea, but with young children, that didn't seem to fit.
From big league teams, there was a handful of Minor League offers with invites to big league camps. No promises were being made.
So what did Reynolds do? He returned to the Rockies. Reynolds knew they projected Desmond to be the first baseman, at least for 2017. But he also knew the organization, and he was looking for some familiar faces after having spent the previous eight seasons wearing the uniforms of eight teams.
"They were all similar Minor League deals," said Reynolds. "I felt like I knew the guys in the clubhouse, most of the coaches, and the [front office], and I felt like they knew me. It seemed like the best fit."
It has been.
From an uncertain future the day he checked into camp, Reynolds has emerged as the insurance policy Colorado unexpectedly needed. Desmond, after having avoided the disabled list in his seven previous seasons, has made three trips to the disabled list. He missed the first 25 games of the season because of a broken hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch in Spring Training.
On July 6, Desmond was back on the DL for a two-week stint due to a right calf strain, which flared up nine games after he rejoined the active roster on July 16 and has sidelined him since.
Desmond was activated from his latest stint prior to Monday's game against the Tigers at Coors Field. His three-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque made it apparent the Rockies were ready to have him assume a versatility role.
While on his assignment, Desmond started his first game at first base, which he learned to play this spring. He started the next game in left field, where, along with center field, he played for the Rangers last season. And after a day to re-evaluate his health, Desmond started at shortstop, his home for six big league seasons with the Nationals.
It's the Reynolds factor.
Still adjusting to a refined approach at the plate that Cardinals hitting coach John Mabry suggested when he was in St. Louis in 2015, Reynolds has provided Colorado not only solid defense but a middle-of-the-lineup bat. He went into Monday's game hitting .277, along with: 28 home runs (his most since 2011); 87 RBIs (his most since '07); and an .883 OPS and .517 slugging percentage (his highest for both since '09).
"Maturity," said Reynolds. "I have seen a lot of pitchers in my day. I feel I have a better approach, better plan going into each at-bat. I get a lot of opportunities every time I hit with the guys in front of me [Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado]."
Manager Bud Black has been careful to find spots to rest Reynolds to keep him strong, and with the return of Desmond, that could become easier. They may both be right-handed hitters, but it's not out of the question Desmond could get the bulk of the at-bats against left-handers, against whom Reynolds is hitting .233, 63 points lower than against right-handed pitchers.
But Desmond figures to get time in the outfield, too; four primary outfielders on the Rockies' active roster are left-handed hitters in Blackmon, Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gonzalez and Raimel Tapia. And his old shortstop glove could get some use, allowing Black the chance to rest Trevor Story against an occasional right-hander to keep him fresh down the stretch.
It's just another twist in a season of adjustments for Colorado in its bid to claim an NL Wild Card spot.
• Wild Card standings
This is, after all, a team that had four rookies battling for what was supposed to be one spot in the starting rotation, only to see the Rockies have all four in the rotation at some point, and at least three at all times. Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and German Marquez are, after all, the only three rookies in the Majors with at least 10 wins.
Throw in Jeff Hoffman, who is currently at Triple-A Albuquerque, and the four freshmen have combined to go 37-22 with 4.49 ERA compared to 15-21 with a 5.00 ERA for the four elder statesmen who have started. That is if a rotation in which the oldest pitcher to make a start is 28 can be considered to have any elder statesmen.
"Everything doesn't follow the original plan," general manager Jeff Bridich said. "You know that going in. It's why you try and create options."
And that's why Reynolds is with the Rockies for a second year in a row.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.