Remade Reynolds thriving with Rockies

Slugger has improved his contact rate, retained power

Remade Reynolds thriving with Rockies

DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds' opposite-way home run off the Cubs' Dylan Floro during Tuesday's 10-4 victory landed in the home bullpen Tuesday at Coors Field, and it fired up the way-back machine.

That long ball gave Reynolds homers in four straight games heading into Tuesday's nightcap of a doubleheader against the Cubs, matching his career-best -- Aug. 6-9, 2012, with the D-backs.

That streak ended in an 8-1 loss in the second game to the Cubs, as Reynolds went 0-for-1 with three walks.

Just don't go thinking Reynolds is the same player now that he was then.

This is the third year of the new Reynolds, who began reinventing himself when he joined the Cardinals in 2015 and found a mentor in the team's hitting coach, John Mabry.

"Cliff's Notes? The easiest answer is keeping the barrel in the zone longer," Reynolds said.

The old power is back. Reynolds, who eclipsed 30 homers three times and had 21 or more 2008-14, already has 12 this year. But he struck out a Major League-record 233 times in 2009, and led his league in that category 2008-11.

Reynolds' solo home run

In 2015 with Mabry and the Cardinals, Reynolds hit .230 with 13 homers, but managed a .315 on-base percentage, which was his highest in three years. Last year with the Rockies brought a career-best .356 OBP. Through 33 games, he has a .402 OBP and a .333 batting average.

With the D-backs (2007-10), Orioles (2011-13), Indians (2013), Yankees (2013), and Brewers (2014), power paid well, with salaries from from $5.3 million to $7.5 million from 2011-13.

"I don't think there was pressure [to hit home runs]," he said. "It was more I had success doing it and I wanted to keep doing it. And I had job security."

The salary dropped to $2 million with the Brewers as the industry saw him as a part-time starter. In '13, realizing that he could no longer depend on 600 at-bats to let him take advantage of pitchers' mistakes, he signed with the Cardinals and reached out to Mabry, a standout pinch-hitter for 14 seasons with eight teams.

"It's not like we did drills to do it, to change stuff," Reynolds said. "It was more of a mindset."

Mabry, who played for the Rockies in 2007, credits a willing student.

"There's no secret sauce," Mabry said. "It was just him rolling up his sleeves and doing the work that he wanted to do to get better."

With the Cards and with the Rockies last year, close-to-regular opportunity arose, but Reynolds kept the off-the-bench approach. Last season, he finished with 14 home runs in 118 games.

When no team offered a starting opportunity last winter, Reynolds took a Minor League contract from the Rockies, turned it into $1.5 million job, and took over first base when Ian Desmond suffered a broken left hand during Spring Training.

Last year, Reynolds made contact (fair or foul) with a career-high 71.24 percent of his swings, after not exceeding 68.28 percent any previous year. This year he has improved to 72.9 percent.

Contact is much harder. According to Statcast™, Reynolds has  barreled (hit hard, according to exit speed and launch angle) 11.2 percent of balls in play, up 6 percent from last year and 8.4 percent from 2015.

"I wasn't bad, but I had a lot more holes than I did now," Reynolds said. "If you go back and watch video of my younger days versus now, I could only get to certain pitches back then.

"But I'm not saying that I have everything figured out. It just so happens that when I barrel it, it's going in the air."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page.

Glenn Sattell contributed to this story.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.