Seeking power, Cardinals won’t mind strikeouts
ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Cardinals are prepared to live with the swings and misses, knowing that when Mark Reynolds connects the ball really travels.
They have lacked a power bat off the bench, or power anywhere for that matter, and Reynolds also could platoon with Matt Adams at first base. Manager Mike Matheny promises he won’t have batting coach John Mabry tinker too much with a stroke that’s boom or bust.
”We need to capitalize on what his strengths are and not focus on the weaknesses, and realize he’s got a power component that’s very rare,” Matheny said at the Winter Warm-Up fan festival. ”Make some subtle changes to maybe improve, but also not be afraid to get up there and try to drive the ball. That’s why we did bring him in.”
General manager John Mozeliak points out something of a happy medium approach would help both parties. Reynolds is playing for his fifth team in four seasons.
”I think we understood what we were buying,” Mozeliak said. ”But that’s not to say we also weren’t hopeful of maybe a little bit of an adjustment.”
The Cardinals made it to the postseason for a franchise-record fourth consecutive season without relying on the long ball, totaling 102 homers for second-worst in the major leagues. Home runs were down across the board among the starters and the bench contributed just 12.
That’s why the Cardinals think the 31-year-old Reynolds is a good fit. He holds the major league record of 223 strikeouts in 2009 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and is just a .229 career hitter, but he hit 44 homers in 2009 and has 21 or more in each of his last seven seasons.
Though he batted a paltry .196 last year with Milwaukee – and fanned nearly once per three at-bats in a part-time role – Reynolds managed to hit 22 homers.
”The one thing we’ve talked about a lot is who’s the power off the bench,” Mozeliak said. ”Historically, we just haven’t had a great answer for that. At the minimum, we’re hoping he can do that.”
Certainly, Reynolds would love reducing the strikeout count without sacrificing too much pop. But there’s a limit.
”When there’s two outs and nobody on base and I have two strikes, I’m not going to try to hit a ball to second base,” Reynolds said. ”I’m going to try to drive the ball in the gap and get in scoring position, and I don’t want to compromise that.”
After playing his first four seasons with Arizona, Reynolds has had stints with the Orioles, Indians, Yankees and Brewers. He chose a one-year deal with St. Louis for opportunities at the corner infield spots and perhaps some outfield, too, for a chance to play for a faithful fan base and above all join a team accustomed to playing deep into October.
”I had other opportunities to go other places where I could have probably played more, at least on paper, but it didn’t look too good for the postseason,” Reynolds said. ”I wanted to be here.”
The move figures to be a motivator for the left-handed hitting Adams, who batted .318 against right-handed pitchers but just .190 against lefties. Only three of Adams’ homers came against lefties.
Reynolds hasn’t exactly crushed lefties, either, with a career average of .231. But his on-base percentage of .351 against lefties is impressive.
”I’m definitely not here to ride the pine,” Reynolds said. ”I’m going to try and make it tough on Mike to keep me on the bench.”