When Mark Reynolds first learned that he’d been traded from the Diamondbacks and would be moving over to the American League, he chose not to believe the long-standing theory that it takes players time to adapt to playing in a new league.
The Orioles’ third baseman says he was “skeptical” of the idea that he would need to adjust to new pitchers and what they brought at him, and thought his transition to the American League would be fairly seamless.
And now, after playing in the AL for over a month?
“There is some truth to it,” Reynolds admits. “All the guys in the NL, I could tell you what they’re going to try to do to me to get me out and what pitches they have. But here, it’s a whole new learning curve.”
For guys like Reynolds and Derrek Lee, the normal period that it takes to get into the flow of the regular season has been made more difficult because of their baseball backgrounds.
Reynolds, who played his first four major league seasons with the Diamondbacks, and Lee, who is playing on an American League team for the first time after 14 seasons in the NL, have had to adjust to a whole new experience this season.
“New team, new city, new living arrangements, everything’s new,” Reynolds said. “Getting used to the pitchers and your team and the city; it’s all new. Ballparks, weather, all of it.”
The biggest change, though, involves the guys that Reynolds and Lee are squaring off against each night. Most hitters keep a mental notebook of sorts, which details what pitches each opposing hurler brings to the mound. Once a hitter knows what to expect, it’s easier to tee off.
Sure, guys can watch tape and ask their teammates for advice on a certain pitcher. But building up that mental notebook involves facing a whole new group pitchers for the first time and learning their repertoire first-hand.
“Seeing pitchers that you haven’t seen before (is tough), but they haven’t seen you before, either,” said Lee, careful not to make excuses for his slow start to the season. “It’s just an adjustment period for everyone. The main thing is just knowing their tendencies. You can see it on video, but it’s a little different on video (than it is) in person.”
As an example, Lee cited a game against the Twins a couple weeks ago when he faced Minnesota starter Scott Baker.
“I had him on video as fastball, curveball, and he threw me a few sliders,” Lee said. “So, it’s a learning experience. Now, I know he’ll throw that pitch, whereas I missed it on video. You do the best you can in the video room, but the best learning experience is out there on the field.”
Reynolds agreed, saying he’s actually had discussions with Lee about the issue they’re both facing.
“We were talking about it the other day,” Reynolds said. “It’s tough seeing some of these relievers out of the ‘pen throwing 98, and you have no idea what they’re going to do.”
Neither Reynolds’ nor Lee’s numbers are where they would like them to be so far this season. Reynolds has hit just .194 with three homers and 15 RBIs this season, while Lee - a career .282 hitter - sports just a .244 mark with three home runs and eight RBIs at this point.
But both are starting to heat up, possibly because they’re getting more comfortable with what they’re seeing from opposing pitchers.
Over his last 11 games, Lee is hitting .302 with two homers and six RBIs, while Reynolds has a hit in four of six games this month and has boosted his average 22 points since the start of May.
Reynolds said he feels like his bat is coming around, and acknowledged that the league change has played a part in his slow start to the season. Still, the power-hitting third baseman says the bottom line is he just needs to start hitting on a more consistent basis.
“Those are all just variables, and at the end of the day, it’s baseball,” Reynolds said. “You’ve got to just go out there and play.”