Reynolds earning time in merit-based system

Reynolds earning time in merit-based system

ST. LOUIS -- Most days, in the few minutes before batting practice begins, infield coach Jose Oquendo shuffles his way over to first base to find a flock of players gathered for his tutorial.

Standing there are Brandon Moss and Mark Reynolds, both with plenty of experience but also uncertain of their upcoming playing time. Stephen Piscotty has joined the group in an effort to learn the nuances of a position he may be called to play more frequently down the road. Pete Kozma, Tony Cruz, Yadier Molina all stop in to stay just sharp enough in case they're needed. And most recently, Matt Adams has rejoined the group as he works his way back from a groin injury.

Reynolds lightheartedly called the sessions a daily "tryout camp," which isn't entirely facetious.

In search of production at a position that has lacked as much as the Cardinals desired, manager Mike Matheny continues to shuffle through various first-base options. Play well one day, you may get to stick the next. Endure a rough stretch and someone else will get a chance.

"If anything, it kind of lights a fire," Reynolds said after keying the Cardinals to a 6-2 win over the Marlins on Saturday. "You know you have to perform to play. That's how any position is. It's worked out. I've been swinging the bat pretty well the last couple games."

In reaching base twice on Friday and delivering an RBI single in that win, Reynolds helped his case to stick in the lineup on Saturday. And if starts continue to be largely merit-based, he should be in there again for Sunday's series finale against the Marlins. After hitting a double and scoring the team's second run in a two-run second on Saturday, Reynolds blasted a 413-foot, three-run homer to give the Cardinals a four-run, sixth-inning lead.

"He's had some big hits at different times all season long, so we just want to get him in a good place," Matheny said. "It was kind of tough for Mark at first, because we had to get a good look at Brandon, and we're still going to. ... But there are days like this with Mark and the way he has been swinging the last couple, we're going to let him go."

Reynolds has seen his playing time cut into since Moss joined the team in a July 30 trade. But with Moss slow to get going since his arrival, Reynolds has had an opportunity to push back into the mix. Since that trade, he's 8-for-27. He's also not complained about inconsistent playing time, noting that such was the gig he agreed to when signing a one-year deal with the team over the winter.

At the time, Reynolds expected to be the primary backup to Adams. Now, his production has more say on whether he sticks day to day.

Reynolds will need a healthy saturation of at-bats over the final seven weeks of the season if he hopes to make any push toward extending his string of 20-homer seasons to eight. Saturday's blast was his 10th this year, but he's not giving up on the possible achievement just yet.

"I've hit 10 in a month," he said. "We'll see what happens."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.