SAN DIEGO — Pitching in the thin air in Denver is difficult enough. Living there can compound the issue. Diamondbacks left-hander Matt Reynolds no longer has to make that adjustment, and it has worked out well.
Reynolds has not given up a run in 15 1/3 innings this season, the longest run in the major leagues. While it has mostly to do with his stuff and command, the relocation to Arizona has made a difference.
“It’s not so much the park. I think your body feels a little different there. Throughout the course of the season, when you are playing at altitude, you are coming home from the road and your body doesn’t recover as quickly. When you go in and out of there for a series, you don’t necessarily notice it as much as when you are there for an extended period,” Reynolds said.
“You have aches and pains that you might not normally have. It’s small things. If you let it get to your head, it will. If you don’t … but there is something to it.”
The D-backs certainly believe in the Coors Field factor. Miguel Montero said the light air leads to occasional headaches when he plays in Colorado. Manager Kirk Gibson makes it a point not to tax his players not only when they are in Colorado but also in the few games on either side of a series there. Gibson used three lineups and gave most of his positional players a start off during the April 25-27 series.
“We all feel it. It’s a weird feeling,” Montero said.
Added Reynolds: “I didn’t really notice it as much until I played a full season there. Coming in from the road, you think maybe you are just tired. But every time you come back from the road, you feel that. You get used to it. You deal with it. You make adjustments.”
Reynolds, 26, has given up only six hits and one walk in his 16 appearances, striking out 13 after getting his only batter on an 80 mph changeup Sunday. He has been used often in middle-inning stints, but he also closed out extra-inning victories on April 23-24 in San Francisco, the first two late-inning save opportunities of his career.
He was 3-1 with a 4.40 ERA while being used mostly as a situational lefty in 2012, making 71 appearances and throwing 57 1/3 innings in his second full season with the Rockies.
The D-backs saw things they liked while playing against Reynolds, and they, too, were intrigued about how that would translate away from the extreme elements in Denver. With adding bullpen left-handers a priority, Kevin Towers acquired Reynolds for infielder Ryan Wheeler on Nov. 20.
“You try to project getting him out of Denver. What would that mean?” Gibson said. “You watch people. You look at people. Certainly thought he had potential.”
At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Reynolds gives hitters a different look with his fastball/slider/changeup repertoire. His fastball is usually in the 88 mph range, but the velocity is deceiving. Montero is 1 for 6 against Reynolds in his career, and after catching him once this spring, he told Gibson he understood why.
“He’s pretty sneaky. His fastball seems a little bit harder than what it is,” Montero said.
Reynolds brings the one trait Towers considers essential: He throws strikes. He averaged about one walk every three innings with the Rockies.
“It’s tough to pitch in this league if you are afraid of contact. I found through experience that the more you are in the zone, better things happen,” Reynolds said.
Said Gibson: “He’s throwing strikes. He works fast. Everything is coming out of the same arm slot. He has an angle. Maybe you look up and see 88, but he has a lot of angle to it. He throws a very heavy ball. He is deceptive. He had good pitches as well. He’s been very versatile for us.” Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter