He is the man on the Orioles coaching staff that started working with Mark Reynolds on his defense during spring camp and will continue to try and help Reynolds make needed improvements with his defense.
DeMarlo Hale is the Orioles’ third-base coach, but also works with the team’s infielders. He served on Terry Francona’s Red Sox coaching staffs the last six years, the last two as bench coach. He was a coach with Texas before that for four seasons and for three of his seasons there (2003-2005) the manager was Buck Showalter.
The two are back together with this O’s club and Hale is trying to get Reynolds, who has already made two errors, to get better on defense at third.
“Well, there are a few things we started in spring training,” Hale said Wednesday at Camden Yards. “Trying to create some good habits and break some ones that have formed. Starting in spring - and I don’t want to get into certain things out of respect for the player and identify them through the media - but there’s some things we are working on and hopefully he continues to get better.
“The thing we are trying to do is just have consistent play, a consistent start. Pre-set, as far as (before) the pitch. There are some things he has gotten better at and I see some improvement, but there is more to do. These players out here, they work at getting better. At this level, you cannot stop working to get better.
“He’s the first to admit there are things to work on. The thing I like is that he works at it. He wants to be out there. That is the big thing. I don’t want to get specific, I have learned not to talk through the media about players.”
Has Hale seen Reynolds make some improvements even though the fans have yet to see improved play?
“Yes,” Hale said. “Starting in spring training, you are talking about creating good habits. I can say that. The good habits that he is creating, you want to translate into the game.”
Hale knows all about Reynolds’ poor defense last year, even though he wasn’t a coach here. He also knows the fans doubt Reynolds. Despite that, does Hale see a player that has what it takes to be a decent third baseman?
“You know what? Yes, he has the tools. He has the foot speed, he has the quickness of hand reaction. It comes down to consistent play and consistent mindset. All players have to work at the consistent approach. It’s still early, just the sixth game. Not trying to make a big issue out of him. He’s made a couple of errors, but we move on. One of the big things is to put it behind you,” Hale said.
Hale was aware of Reynolds’ interview after Tuesday’s game when his error led to two unearned runs. Reynolds pointed the finger at himself for his mistake.
“Each player wants to do good,” Hale said. “If he beat himself up (during an interview), it’s because he wants to do good and help this team win. This is a team that can win. There are some pieces here, some talent here. But now we move on. I’m not a psychologist, but the one thing I wanted to see was his mindset today (Wednesday) and it was pretty good and that’s positive.”
Reynolds lost some weight, in large part, to help him play better defense and Hale believes it eventually will.
“Just first-step quickness,” Hale said. “When you talk about first-step quickness, then you start talking about the angles and the depth that you take. Especially at third base - it’s a reaction position. You have different depths, whether you may be in tight for the bunt. He’s got decent reactions and losing the weight has added to that.”
Reynolds had a key two-run double in Wednesday’s game, but is hitting just .176 so far. Hale doesn’t want one part of a player’s game, if he is struggling there, to impact other areas of his play.
“We use the term, ‘Separate your game.’ There are three phases - hitting, defense and base running. But it’s not as easy for a player when the situation becomes magnified when maybe you don’t have the at-bat you wanted or something happens in the field. It’s a natural thought to let something linger. It’s human nature. But as a coach and (with) your teammates, you help him get away from that as soon as possible,” Hale added.