Showalter backs Reynolds despite struggles at plate

Showalter backs Reynolds despite struggles at plate

Showalter backs Reynolds despite struggles at plate
ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite the prolonged struggles of Mark Reynolds, manager Buck Showalter said he will continue run the first baseman out there in the Orioles starting lineup, holding out hope that he can go on the kind of power surge that has been missing this season.

"He, I don't think mentally handles that real well," Showalter said of the prospect of giving Reynolds a day or two off. "But, I'll always serve the team's needs first."

Reynolds, who is hitless in the first two games of the series, is batting .177 with 27 strikeouts, six walks, and no home runs in his last 17 games, a stretch in which he posted a . 492 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage). He admitted Friday to be over-thinking his at-bats, trying to guess what Rays catcher Jose Lobaton was trying to do to him without much success.

"He's pressing quite a bit right now," hitting coach Jim Presley said of Reynolds who has eight homers in 82 games and has been out early working with Presley to try to turn around the worst stretch of his career.

"Once you start struggling, you think it's mechanics and all of a sudden your mind is racing so much to now you can't hit the 92 mile-an-hour fastball, [and you] foul it off instead. ... I'm just stressing to him to stay on top of the ball, that's how he was last year."

Reynolds hit 37 home runs last season, leading the Orioles and placing fourth in the American League. He also led the 2011 club in RBI (86), runs scord (84), walks (75) and OPS (.806).

"His contact to damage ratio has been tough," Showalter said of Reynolds, who turned 29 on Friday and has a club option for 2013. "He's got a lot of good baseball ahead of him. Only one way to find out, you got to run him out there and let him try to get a feel for it. His track record says at some point it will happen, but it really hasn't consistently yet."