Reynolds' career has green light again As an Oriole, he's off and running

February 27, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Harold Reynolds seems to be enjoying his first few days in an Orioles uniform. He is winning friends in every corner of the clubhouse, and he's looking forward to winning more than that now that he finally is playing for a contending team.

It's nice to have a future again.

The Orioles might have resurrected his career when the club signed him to a one-year contract in December. He had fallen out of favor in 1992 after a string of solid seasons with the Seattle Mariners, but he seems determined to rediscover himself in Baltimore.

That process, he says, will begin on the base paths, where he once was considered one of the most dangerous base stealers in the American League. Reynolds stole 60 bases to lead the league in 1987. He averaged 35 stolen bases during the six seasons that led up to last year. Somewhere along the line, the Mariners seemed to lose confidence in his speed, but now he wants to pick up where he left off before the they replaced him with second-base prospect Bret Boone.

"That has an effect on the whole rest of your game," he said. "It's like taking the heart out of you. I had no green light. I had no light to run. And if you did, you'd better make it or you wouldn't get it again.

"By the All-Star break, I had maybe 10 or 12 attempts. In the past, there were times when I already had 30 stolen bases at that point. I was pretty upset about it, but I am getting beyond that. What happened in Seattle is what happened there. This is a whole new beginning."

Reynolds is trying not to look back in anger, but it isn't easy. He was an All-Star both on the field and in the community during his stay in Seattle, but the business of baseball got in the way. Now, he is trying to put his best foot forward again -- in more ways than one -- and he has turned to Orioles base-running coach Davey Lopes for help.

"Harold and I have been trying to hook up for a couple of years now," Lopes said. "I remember a few years ago when he was playing a lot, I felt like I could help him. He was stealing a lot of bases, but I felt at that time that he still was getting thrown out too high a percentage of the time."

Perhaps it is providential that they have been brought together at this point in Reynolds' career. Lopes is one of the foremost base-running experts in baseball, but he also can identify with what Reynolds has gone through the past year. Lopes went through the same thing when the Los Angeles Dodgers replaced him with Steve Sax in 1982.

"We've already talked once," Lopes said. "He told me why things happened. I told him that this is a fresh start. We're doing things differently now. I think you'll see a different attitude. He's seeing that he's wanted. He's going to have some freedom. He doesn't have to worry about any kids coming up behind him. He doesn't have to worry about 'Why are they doing this when I was so good in the community?' "

Reynolds couldn't help but feel betrayed in Seattle. No athlete took a greater interest in the community. No one could blame him for wondering why he isn't a fixture in the Mariners lineup the way Cal Ripken is in Baltimore, but Lopes was quick to remind him that he isn't the first player to find out that baseball can be a harsh mistress.

"It happens to all of us at one time or another," he said. "It's part of the business. But he has a chance to start over. He's still a young man. This guy is a pretty good ballplayer. He has a pretty good attitude. Hopefully, we can get him back to where he was a couple of years ago."

That's why he's here. The Orioles chose Reynolds because they felt he could add speed to the lineup. Reynolds chose the Orioles because he felt they would use his speed more than the station-to-station Mariners of 1992.

"I knew they played an aggressive style," he said. "I knew they were looking for somebody to fill in at second. That's why I say it's a perfect fit for me. I'm going to get the opportunity to run. We've got a chance to win. It's a great combination."

The presence of Lopes on the coaching staff is just a bonus. Reynolds couldn't wait to get together with him for some one-on-one base-running instruction.

"I approached him about three or four years ago," Reynolds said. "I told him that I wanted to talk to him about base stealing. It just never seemed to work out. I had always respected the way he played and the fact that he is the all-time leader in base-stealing percentage."

Lopes has the best success rate in history among players who have stolen 500 bases or more. He twice led the National League in stolen bases and ranks 12th all time in steals. He was brought in last year to improve the overall base running of the club, but he'll also work individually this year with Reynolds, Mike Devereaux, Brady Anderson and Mark McLemore.

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