SARASOTA, Fla.(AP) — Three straight record-breaking seasons with more than 200 strikeouts is enough for Mark Reynolds.
A rigorous offseason of workouts in the weight room and on the track, combined with an adjustment to his swing and a renewed resolve to be more disciplined at the plate, has Reynolds confident he can cut down on all those Ks.
But not by much.
“I have made some changes that hopefully will allow me to, well, not strike out 100 times a year but maybe strike out 180 times,” Reynolds said.
That’s still a lot of swing-and-misses. Yet it would qualify as a worthwhile improvement for Reynolds, who will launch his first season with the Baltimore Orioles on Friday in Tampa Bay.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail obtained Reynolds in a December trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks because the third baseman hit 28 homers in 2008, 44 in 2009 and 32 last season. That’s pretty impressive, but Reynolds also put up numbers in those seasons that earned him no small measure of notoriety.
He struck out 204 times in 2008 to become the first player in baseball history to reach the 200-mark. He broke his own record in 2009, amassing a staggering 223 Ks. Last year, Reynolds became the first position player in major league history to have a higher strikeout total (211) than batting average (.198).
On the list of most strikeouts in a season, Reynolds is Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
Eager to get in better condition and become more selective at the plate, Reynolds asked for help from Brady Anderson, a former Oriole and fitness enthusiast. The request to Anderson, now Baltimore’s roving hitting instructor, came because both men share the same agent.
Anderson worked with Reynolds in the weight room, had him run and jump on a daily basis, and observed his hacks in the batting cage.
“I learned my work ethic from him,” Reynolds said. “He’s a workout machine, and he really kind of brought that attitude into my life. I think I’m as strong as I’ve ever been.”
Yes, but what of the strikeouts? That’s the question Reynolds has been hearing all spring, mainly because no one in a major league uniform has ever struck out with such frequency.
“He probably is worn out hearing about the strikeouts. It’s because there’s a 2 in front of them,” Anderson said. “Because his strikeout totals are historically unprecedented, he gets a lot of attention. If they were just 170 or 180, he probably wouldn’t be talked about as much. But the fact that it’s 200, that’s different.”
Anderson hit 50 homers in 1996 and struck out only 106 times, living proof that homers and strikeouts don’t have to go hand-in-hand. Reynolds applied some of Anderson’s tips, abandoned others, and hopes the finished product will produce the desired results.
“My goal is just to put as many quality at-bats together as I can,” Reynolds said. “At the end of the day, the numbers will be there — whether it’s striking out 100 times, 180 times, whatever. As long as I’m productive, driving in runs, scoring runs, hitting homers and playing good defense, I can go to sleep at night.”
One hundred times?
Not gonna happen.
“I’ve got to realize that I’m not going to be a guy that strikes out 100 times,” Reynolds said. “I’d like to be, but I’m not going to try to make drastic changes, like choke up and hit grounders. I’m in the lineup to hit the ball in the gap, and give us a chance to score runs.”
Strikeouts are not necessarily a bad thing — if they’re kept well under 200 and balanced by walks and home runs.
“I picture him like Jim Thome. That’s a good model for him, the type of hitter he is,” Anderson said. “Thome has high strikeout numbers but high walks numbers.
“Thome is a Hall of Famer and he’s always dangerous, no strikes or two strikes. But one thing he’s diligent about: He will make the pitcher throw him a pitch he can hit. The only thing that separates a guy like Reynolds from a guy like Thome at this point in his career is discipline at the plate. Thome has it, and Reynolds has it in spurts.”
Even though he batted .232 this spring with a team-high 23 strikeouts, one home run and five RBIs, Reynolds is pleased with his progress.
“It’s not so much the results. It’s more about putting aggressive swings on pitches and recognizing pitches rather than swinging at pitches in the dirt,” Reynolds said.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing on his mind as he prepares for a season unlike any other.
“It’s a tough transition, changing my swing and doing all these different things, coming into a new league, learning new pitching, new teammates, new expectations from people who haven’t seen me play,” he said. “But I’m getting more comfortable and I’m getting more prepared for the challenges ahead of me. I’m trying not the think about the past.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)