SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Mark Reynolds is a lighter presence in the Baltimore Orioles’ clubhouse than he was a year ago.
He’s hoping that results in fewer strikeouts and errors, and more home runs.
The power-hitting third baseman, who once struck out a major league record 223 times, had fewer than 200 in his first season with the Orioles last year, but led baseball in errors.
In the past year, Reynolds has dropped 19 pounds, and after a brief move to first base, he’s back at third.
He also had a slow start in his American League debut after a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks and finished the year with 37 home runs, 196 strikeouts and 31 errors — 26 at third base.
He thinks he can improve on all three this season.
First: the errors.
Manager Buck Showalter agreed with Reynolds that he’d feel more comfortable back at third base. Reynolds’ move would enable Chris Davis, who played some third last year to move back to first.
“It’s not so much to show people. It’s not to prove to myself,” Reynolds said. “I just think with C.D. at third, two people would be out of their natural positions.”
On Friday afternoon, Reynolds made two nice plays at third base in Baltimore’s first intrasquad game, and Showalter was pleased with his performance.
“It’s been a point of emphasis for Mark — as much as anything in the offseason,” Showalter said. “He made two good plays — and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Reynolds had a horrible start to 2011. Never known as a high-average hitter, Reynolds was well under .200 for much of the first two months of the year, and it wasn’t until the season was more than one-third done that he pushed above that mark.
His slow start was attributed to adjusting to the AL for the first time, though Reynolds disagrees with that notion.
“No, that had very little to do with it. Baseball is baseball. Guys go through slumps. Mine just happened to be out of the gate,” Reynolds said. “If I’m hitting .280, and all of a sudden I hit a little streak, and I fall to .240 — nobody notices. If I’m hitting .180, it’s a big difference.”
Reynolds believes the experience should help.
“I’ve got a year under my belt now, and I know a lot of the pitchers now, so I’m definitely going to use that to my advantage and be more consistent from the get-go instead of turning it on in June,” Reynolds said.
The Orioles played well the last six weeks of the season, winning 22 of their last 38. Ten of his home runs came during that stretch, and had he not been beaned by Los Angeles’ Ervin Santana in mid-September and missed three games, Reynolds might have reached 40 homers.
In 2009 — the year he struck out 223 times — Reynolds also hit 44 home runs.
“I’ve done it before. Each year is different,” Reynolds said. “You go on hot streaks — you go on cold streaks. You’ve got to try to be more consistent and not dig a hole in the first month of the season and worry about that. Just try and carry confidence the whole way through and start out of the gate strong, hopefully build my confidence up, get on a little roll and hopefully have a good year.”
Reynolds, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy all hit more than 20 home runs, but the Orioles still had a losing record for the 14th consecutive season. Showalter noticed the homers and errors, and thought Reynolds could do better — by keeping his weight down. He actually lost weight during the season a year ago, and Showalter strongly suggested he keep it off.
He’s happy he did.
“I feel lighter. My legs feel better at the end of the day. I feel my mobility is better. I feel just healthier,” Reynolds said.
And how about those strikeouts? In his first three full major league seasons, Reynolds, 28, became the first player in major league history to strike out more than 200 times — and did it all three years.
“It’s obviously a goal. Last year, I stayed under — which is really big for me because I’d never really done it before and hopefully, I can keep improving on that,” Reynolds said.
“I’m not going to go up there and try and hit groundballs everywhere. I’m going to have the same mentality, getting guys in scoring position, and hitting homers.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)