GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Mark Reynolds shrugged it off as just another spring training at-bat.
But his manager wasn’t shrugging off anything.
“It was fun to watch,” Terry Francona said Saturday before the Cleveland Indians headed to Peoria to play Seattle. “I’ll take that anytime.”
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As in, anytime is a good time to hit a 500-foot home run that cleared a scoreboard of unspecified dimensions in left field.
Reynolds took a high fast-ball on a 1-0 count and drove it over the scoreboard in left. Exact distance of the blast was not available, but the scoreboard starts 25 feet above field level, at the top of the hill in the outfield built for spectators. It then goes up perhaps 40 feet. Reynolds’ home run — dare it be called a prodigious blast — easily cleared the right side of the scoreboard.
The team’s official web site called it a “moonshot.”
Nick Swisher called it a “freaking bomb.”
Vinnie Pestano posted to Twitter: “That’s not gonna get old at any point this year … #reynolds.”
And Francona said simply: “He took a gorgeous swing.”
Reynolds never saw the ball, never saw it land. Told it cleared the scoreboard, he merely said: “That’s what I heard.”
He was happy his three-year-old son Jacob was in the crowd to see it. And he smiled when his son told him after the game “You hit it and nobody caught it.”
“I run into them every now and then,” he said. “You know my game.”
His game is pretty self-explanatory. And it almost seems as if Reynolds hits a home run or he strikes out. Reynolds has averaged 33 home runs the last five seasons, two with Baltimore and three with Arizona. But he’s also averaged 199 strikeouts in those seasons — leading the league four times.
But he walks a lot, and gets on base (career .332), which combined with his home runs puts his OPS often above .800 (which is good) and usually above .750 (which is better than average).
So the Indians will live with the strikeouts, because Reynolds with any at-bat can change the game.
“The dude can hit a baseball a mile,” Swisher said. “It’s nice to have him in our lineup.”
Francona said he won’t try to change Reynolds because that’s the kind of hitter he is. He told the story of a leadoff hitter he had who rarely walked but got 200 hits. When he tried to get more walks, he dropped to about 150 hits.
“The hope is there’s production there (with Reynolds),” Francona said. “Because there’s going to be strikeouts. But I don’t think you try to mess with changing him. Because that’s not who he is.”
Francona said the idea is to use a player’s strengths, and Reynolds’ are his power and his ability to get on base.
“We don’t want him to turn into a No. 2 hitter,” Francona said. “But when his approach is to cover the whole field he can do what he did (Friday), where he’s on balance and he can backspin the ball and hit it 500 feet.”
Five hundred feet was a fair estimate of the home run. Reynolds quipped that it was nice to hit one against the team where he started playing and off Dave Hernandez, the guy Arizona acquired when it traded him to Baltimore.
The pitch Hernandez threw was 96 miles per hour.
“He missed earlier in the game at a 92,” Francona said. “And then he it a 96 a mile. He’s geared for that for sure.”
“You don’t feel it,” Reynolds said. “Normally eight times out of 10 you’ll hit a ball and it will hurt your hands. You get a couple swings here and there where you don’t feel it. It feels good to know that you’re on time with somebody throwing 96, 97.”
Reynolds is not a loud guy, but he has a dry sense of humor. The Indians added him to a one-year, $6 million contract in the offseason after Baltimore did not pick up his option after he had hit 66 home runs for the Orioles in two seasons.
“I was kind of surprised,” Reynolds said.
Francona reached out to Reynolds personally. He’s the kind of power bat that the team has not had the past couple years. Reynolds was actually the first to agree to terms in the Indians offseason binge, but he signed a day after Swisher. “Everybody followed me here,” he quipped.
He said he’s a notoriously slow starter, but he’s hitting .350 with three home runs this spring. He didn’t even stop to watch the biggest one.
“Nah,” he said. “Just run. Maybe if it was to win the game or something. But in a spring training game, down 7-3 …”