DENVER (AP) – The signing of Mark Reynolds over the winter pretty much flew under the radar and reasonably so: It was a minor league deal with no guarantee.
An insurance policy then, the Colorado Rockies first baseman has become an integral piece, seamlessly stepping in after Ian Desmond broke his left hand during spring training.
Reynolds is hitting .306 with four homers and a team-best 11 RBIs for the surging Rockies.
“He’s doing his thing,” said Rockies manager Bud Black. “He’s doing a great job. No doubt about it.”
Still in search of their first NL West title and trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2009, the Rockies won a four-game series in San Francisco for the first time in club history last weekend. They lead the division at 9-5.
Just a few months ago, Reynolds was mulling over a multitude of minor league offers from big league teams, along with attempts to entice him to play in South Korea or Japan.
For familiarity’s sake, he returned to the Rockies for a second season. Reynolds craved stability for his wife and three sons after a career that’s seen him bounce around since Arizona selected him in the 16th round of the 2004 amateur draft.
“At this point of my career, it’s not about how much money I can make,” said Reynolds, who’s also played for Baltimore, Cleveland, New York Yankees, Milwaukee and St. Louis since his big league debut with Arizona in `07. “It’s more about me being comfortable and being in an environment where I feel like I can succeed and enjoy myself.”
Added to the big league roster late in spring training, the 33-year-old Reynolds has a $1.5 million base salary and 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.
“At the end of the day, this is somewhere I wanted to be and where they wanted me back,” Reynolds said. “It just fit.”
Reynolds’ presence proved crucial in the wake of Desmond injury, sustained when he was hit by a pitch from Cincinnati’s Rookie Davis on March 12. Desmond was among the Rockies’ biggest offseason additions after agreeing to a $70 million, five-year deal in December to make the transition into a first baseman.
Desmond has started to take ground balls in recent days. There’s no announced timetable for his return.
“Unfortunately, the Desmond thing put me in a good spot to play a lot,” Reynolds said. “But when he comes back, we’re going to be that much better. … I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunities I have while I’m still in the lineup. I’m trying to make it hard for Bud (Black) to not to put my name in there.”
Reynolds is coming off a season with Colorado in which he hit a career-best .282 with 14 homers and 53 RBIs. He struck out only 112 times in 441 plate appearances, an improvement from when he topped 200 each season from 2008-10.
That’s due, in part, to a revamped swing.
“I wasn’t up there trying to open my hips and jerk the ball out of the park,” Reynolds explained. “I was up there putting good passes on the ball and being consistent.”
His season was cruising along until injuries limited him to 32 at-bats after Aug. 11. He broke the hamate bone in his left hand while swinging a bat against Texas, leading to surgery four days later. He was activated Aug. 31 and broke his left wrist when hit by a pitch from San Diego’s Jose Dominguez on Sept. 18.
“That was frustrating,” Reynolds said. “I was in a cast until Thanksgiving. I couldn’t play golf. I couldn’t go on vacation.
“We just stayed around the house and got my hand better, rehabbed it, worked out a lot. Frustrating, but at the same time, it gives perspective.”
Namely, how much he desired to return to the Rockies.
“I just wanted to come back to where I was comfortable,” Reynolds said. “Plus, I felt like this team was on the way up. I wanted to be a part of that.”
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer … AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.
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