LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Ted Power knew nothing about Greg Reynolds when the pitching coach for the Reds’ top farm team, the Louisville Bats, was first told about Reynolds prior to spring training.
“I didn’t know any of his history or anything. I remember Mark Riggins – he’s our pitching coordinator – I remember him telling me ‘You’re going to love this guy. He’s got the pitcher’s body, the perfect build, he has a nice repertoire of pitches but I think he lacks confidence,’” said Power as he sat at his desk in his office at Louisville Slugger Field. “I said, ‘Great. We’ll see how things go.’”
Things have gone pretty well for Reynolds. Better than even the 27-year-old hoped for, and better than Power, the Bats or the Reds could’ve envisioned.
Reynolds improved to 9-0 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.23 by pitching his first career complete game in a 2-0 shutout of Rochester last Friday night. Reynolds gave up just two hits and walked just two while striking out eight Rochester batters.
Those are the kinds of numbers that one expects to see from a pitcher who was deemed worthy of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft. They are numbers that would warrant a call-up to the major leagues in many instances. As baseball constantly shows, not everyone gets to take that same path. Reynolds’ path, which included a first call to the big leagues less than two years after being drafted out of Stanford by Colorado, has been one of perseverance, patience and rediscovery.
“I’ve always had confidence in myself but as far as the way things are going right now, I don’t think anybody thought this would happen,” said Reynolds. “I’m thankful that it is and I’m riding the wave. I’m looking forward to trying to keep it going.”
Reynolds stands 6-feet-7-inches and weighs 225 pounds. That’s a lot of pitcher on the mound, especially when that pitcher has five pitches he can throw – a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a cutter, a changeup and a curveball – and he’s doing a good job of commanding all of them.
“He throws strikes with all of his pitches,” said Power, who played 13 seasons in the majors, including six with the Reds.
So, the question begs, why is he still at the Triple-A level with the Bats?
The first answer is, barring injury, there’s no spot in the starting rotation for him with as well as Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake have thrown all season. Even when Cueto has been hurt and forced onto the disable list on two occasions, Tony Cingrani has performed well in his absence.
The second: Reynolds isn’t on the Reds’ 40-man roster. The Reds currently have just 39 of those spots filled, but that does not include pitcher Nick Masset and outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Both players are on the 60-day DL and don’t count against the 40-man limit. The Reds are hoping that one or both are able to rejoin them at some point later in the season.
Teams don’t just jettison players off the 40-man roster to make room for someone else in quick fashion. There are eight minor leaguers among the 23 pitchers currently on the 40-man roster, ranging from Ismael Guillon at Single-A Dayton to four members of the Louisville staff. These are the players who make up the future of any organization and teams don’t easily change their course of development in the middle of a season.
Reynolds was on Colorado’s 40-man roster until the end of the 2011 season, when he was outrighted to the minor leagues. The Rockies traded him to Texas in January 2012 in exchange for Chad Tracy. Reynolds pitched at Round Rock, the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers, in the Pacific Coast League last season.
His pro career has been filled with injury. A shoulder injury first showed itself in 2007 after he had began his season at Double-A Tulsa 4-1 with a 1.42 ERA in eight starts. He made just one start, on Opening Day, for Triple-A Colorado Springs before missing the rest of the 2009 season. A bone chip in his right elbow cost him part of the 2010 season. In two stints with the Rockies, in 2008 and 2011, Reynolds compiled a 7.47 ERA in 94 innings. He has struck out 40 batters at the Major League level but walked 36.
“With injuries there is a lot of doubt that creeps into your mind. The confidence factor when you’re dealing with injuries is tough to overcome. It’s tough to get back on the right track. It was definitely a confidence issue and the injuries played a big part,” said Reynolds. “Just getting back out every day and not having to worry about how you’re going to feel every day, wondering in the back of your mind if it’s going to hurt to throw or something like that, it’s definitely put my mind at ease and has allowed me to execute pitches the way I should.”
The Reds signed Reynolds to a minor league contract this offseason as a free agent. He had an option to opt out of the contract on June 15 but chose to not exercise that choice.
“It was negotiated into the contract to give me the option to test the waters, to see if there were other opportunities out there, but ultimately making such a big move like that, I felt that staying comfortable and staying here was best,” said Reynolds. “I like the Reds organization and hopefully if they need help I can give it to them. Playing for a good team – they’re going to be in the playoff hunt again – it all factored into the decision to stay around.”
Reynolds is tentatively scheduled to pitch again on Wednesday against the Charlotte Knights at home.
Whatever the future holds for him, Reynolds has been content to play his part. The Reds could make the move to put him on the 40-man roster, call him up and use him in the bullpen. Power said he sees no reason why Reynolds couldn’t handle any role the Reds ask of him. They could use Reynolds as part of a trade. His value has certainly risen this season.
“He and I have talked about it. He knows exactly where he is right now, and that’s a great way to be,” said Power. “He’s glad to be here, he’s comfortable here and he’s got a great group of guys in there. He’s made new friends. He’s in a good working environment and that’s all he needs right now. He can’t push the button.”
NUMBER 400: Louisville first baseman Mike Hessman hit his 400th professional home run Sunday night in an 8-5 loss against Rochester. Hessman, 35, has had 14 home runs in 109 career games in the major leagues. With 386 career homers in the minor leagues, Hessman is closing in on becoming just the fifth player to be documented with 400 minor league long balls.
“It’s perseverance to keep playing and keep grinding it out. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to play that long,” said Hessman. “It’s not necessarily why (play) but more, how long are you going to do it for? I still love the game. I’ve been blessed with the gift of being able to play baseball and I’m just happy that I’m still able to and am healthy enough to go out there on the field and compete. When I know I can’t compete at a level I want to compete at then I’ll start going into a different avenue of it.”
Hessman was a 15th round draft choice of Atlanta in 1996, coming into professional ball straight out of high school. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Hessman is just one of eight players from that Braves’ draft class (not all of whom signed originally with Atlanta) to reach the major leagues. The other players from that class include Jason Marquis, who is still pitching for San Diego, and infielder Mark DeRosa, now playing with Toronto.
“There’s only a handful of us that are still playing,” said Hessman. “You can’t beat it. We’ve got a pretty good gig.”
This is Hessman’s first season in the Reds organization. One player he had no problem relating to was catcher Corky Miller. The two first played against each other in 2000 in the Double-A Southern League when Hessman was with the Greenville Braves and Miller was the Chattanooga Lookouts.
“He’s a trip. He is awesome to play with,” said Hessman of Miller. “We were trying to figure that out. I don’t know the years but we’ve been playing against each other for 10 or 12 years, something crazy… We’ve been around for awhile.”