Reynolds hopes altitude, attitude spur revival

With power as a constant asset, new Rockies acquisition is optimistic

March 8th, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mark Reynolds never figured his career would turn out this way. The kid who had so much promise and power signed with the Rockies as a free agent this past December, the seventh team in his nine-year career.

The prospect of hitting homers at Coors Field was a determining factor.

"They keep giving me uniforms," Reynolds told early Tuesday morning in Colorado's clubhouse at Salt River Fields as he began to put on his latest one. "I guess as long as they keep giving me one, I'll continue to play.

"I thought the Rockies were my best chance of having a rebound year, at having some at-bats in some high altitude. I can hit some big fly balls over there."

The right-handed-hitting Reynolds signed a one-year contract worth $2.6 million, and he'll work into the mix, sharing first base with lefty-swinging Ben Paulsen and playing some corner outfield, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. After batting .230 in 2015 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs for the Cardinals, Reynolds will have to earn his playing time.

Colorado hit a National League-leading .269 against right-handed pitching last season, but only a seventh-best .256 against left-handers. Weiss said he thinks Reynolds will be a big help rectifying that discrepancy.

"He's got big-time power and he's done it," Weiss said. "That power has carried him a long way. He's put together a pretty good career. Right-handed power is hard to find in the game right now. It's a tough commodity to find, and he's proven he can do it."

Reynolds was a 16th-round pick by the D-backs in the 2004 Draft, and through his first three seasons playing third base for the big club in Arizona, he had already accumulated 89 home runs -- 44 in 2009, when he also added 102 RBIs.

The big problem: During those three seasons, Reynolds averaged just more than 185 strikeouts.

Reynolds said on Tuesday he would've loved to have played his entire career with the D-backs, but it wasn't to be. As soon as Kevin Towers took over as general manager near the end of a 97-loss season in 2010, he traded Reynolds to the Orioles. And then Reynolds' odyssey began.

"I guess he didn't like me," Reynolds said dryly about Towers.

It wasn't that as much as Towers trying to change the team's free-swinging culture. Those D-backs in 2010 struck out 1,529 times, last in what was then a 16-team NL. A year later, Arizona whiffed a lot less -- 1,249 times -- and perhaps not coincidentally, won 94 games and finished first in the NL West.

Meanwhile in Baltimore that season, Reynolds struck out 196 times. Since then, he's played with the Indians, Yankees, Brewers and Cardinals, never hanging around for more than a full season anywhere.

Rockies' Spring Training information

Reynolds has had some success and continues to hit homers, 237 in total. But he's struck out 1,519 times in 4,178 at bats. Reynolds has been set down on strikes 36.4 percent of the time, which is reflected in his .230 lifetime batting average, .324 on-base percentage and .775 OPS.

It's a lot of risk for too little reward, and at 32, Reynolds knows it's getting a little late in the day for him to figure it all out.

"I just need to start getting more consistent," Reynolds said. "I've won multiple Player of the Week Awards in both leagues. It's just turning those weeks into months and then consecutive months. That's been my problem throughout my career. I'd be up here and then I'll be down there too long. Maybe I need a little bit flatter roller coaster than such an up-and-down one."

To Reynolds' point, after batting .215 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs over 99 games for the Indians in 2013, he was released and picked up only days later by the Yankees. In New York, he hit six homers and knocked in 19 runs in 36 games.

The Yanks were so impressed they wanted Reynolds back in 2014 as a right-handed pinch-hitter and part-time designated hitter. Instead, the Brewers offered him a more regular slot. In Milwaukee, Reynolds' power numbers and strikeouts remained high, but he batted a career low .196. Last year, it was more of the same with the Cardinals.

Asked how he intends to attain this consistency, Reynolds indicated that a lot of his problems are mental, not physical. Yet, he said, he's never sought the help of a sports psychologist to try and clear his head.

"It starts with me tweaking some things. I think a lot of it has to do with what's going on between my ears," Reynolds said. "Really not worrying about things I can't control. Just worrying about working my tail off and getting in the cage and making sure I'm ready to play every day."

Asked to be more specific, Reynolds continued: "A lot of times, a lot of the outside influences get in my head. You know, not worrying about what that guy writes, or that guy says, or that guy writes on Twitter. I can't worry about what some dude in his basement in California thinks about me. It's me just getting older and maturing. Not worrying about it all and playing ball."

Reynolds seems to have worked out the problem. If it's as simple as all that, he should enjoy that rebound year.