DENVER (AP) — Mark Reynolds glided into the Colorado Rockies clubhouse on a motorized skateboard.
A fitting ride these days for a player who just keeps rolling along.
Reynolds is having an unlikely All-Star-caliber season, hitting .326 with a team-leading 12 homers and 33 RBIs. Unlikely, because he wasn’t even supposed to be the everyday first baseman for the NL West-leading Rockies.
Signed to a minor league deal in February, Reynolds became a valuable insurance policy when outfielder-turned-first baseman Ian Desmond was sidelined by a broken left hand in spring training. Now that Desmond’s back, the Rockies have altered their plans because the 33-year-old Reynolds has been too hot to take out of the lineup.
“He’s been playing phenomenal,” said Desmond, whose team starts a 10-game trip in Minnesota on Tuesday. “He’s been a huge part of us. He’s been carrying us. It doesn’t seem like there is any signs of slowing down, which is awesome.”
Reynolds’ resurgence, though, does present an outfield dilemma for manager Bud Black, who’s trying to find adequate playing time for Desmond, Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. Soon, there could be another name added to the mix when David Dahl returns from a rib injury.
But these are good dilemmas, not bad, because Colorado’s depth, along with a stingy bullpen and reliable starting pitching from a young cast, are reasons why the team is off to its best start (24-15) in franchise history.
A consistent catalyst has been Reynolds, who’s one of the top first basemen in the National League and not listed on the All-Star ballot (Desmond is on there). A vote for Reynolds requires using the write-in slot.
That’s all right, he insisted — if he makes his first All-Star team, great. If not, more time with the family.
He’s been in an All-Star quandary before, when he hit 24 homers at the break in 2009 while with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was part of the vote for the final All-Star spot and lost out to Shane Victorino.
“To experience it once would be neat,” Reynolds said. “Four days with your family isn’t bad, either.”
For the moment, he’s just riding his wave of his productivity.
“Because waves come crashing down, don’t they?” said Reynolds, who homered in four straight games earlier this month. “That’s why you have to stay even keel. You don’t dwell on it, because, yeah, the last few days have been awesome. But the next three days could be 0-for-20. You’ve got to forget about it and concentrate on that day.”
Reynolds’ sizzling play has thrown a wrench into the Rockies’ initial plans. Not that they mind, of course.
Converting Desmond into a first baseman was the offseason goal. But Desmond got hit by a pitch in spring training and was sidelined until April 30.
Given the opportunity, Reynolds has flourished. His approach is simple: Make it hard for Black to keep his name out of the lineup.
Reynolds hit a career-best .282 with Colorado last season by utilizing a refined swing that’s led to a reduction in strikeouts. This is a player who topped 200 strikeouts each season from 2008-10. His career-low was 112 set last season, when he was limited to just 32 at-bats after Aug. 11 because of hand/wrist injuries.
So far, he’s on pace for 137.
“I’m just having fun,” said Reynolds, whose team is 20-0 when leading after the sixth inning. “Just try to keep producing so I can keep playing.”
His glove is highly dependable, too.
“He’s a big impact on our team,” Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “He’s probably our best player right now.”
Not to mention that he’s on pace to reach some lucrative contract escalators. Added to the big league roster late in spring training, Reynolds will make $1.5 million in base salary. He can earn $2 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $250,000 for 200, $300,000 for 250, $400,000 for 300, $450,000 for 350 and $600,000 for 400.
That’s great and all, but Reynolds is far more interested in this number: wins. The Rockies captured four straight series before splitting a four-game tilt with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend.
“You’re not going to win every game, so you try to win series. That will get you to October,” Reynolds said. “That’s what we’re going for.”
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