Reynolds changes luck with jersey Since switch to 25, other stats rise, too

May 13, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Call it a hunch or a superstition, but three weeks into the season, Harold Reynolds realized that the number 6 on the back of his new Orioles jersey "just wasn't happenin'."

Intellectually, Reynolds realized that a simple switch from the number 4 he wore with the Seattle Mariners to the number he took here had little bearing on the horrendous slump he suffered to start the season.

But, in a game that prides itself as one of hunches and dumb luck, Reynolds took a chance that a change to the number 25 might pay dividends.

Reynolds said, "I had read some Scripture that said 'Out with the old man, in with the new man. I thought, 'Yeah, it's time to get rid of this old man and get rid of this number and get this new man in here.' Some people get a haircut, some people cut off their mustache. I changed my number. There's no need to change again."

If the results of the last 15 games are any indication, Reynolds will hold onto 25 for the rest of his career.

From April 26, when he made the number switch, Reynolds has been one of the club's most productive hitters, going 16-for-49, for a .327 clip, going into last night's game with the Boston Red Sox.

Included in that torrid swing was a 10-game hitting streak, the longest of the year on the club, and a current stretch where he has reached base, either by walk, hit or being hit by a pitch in 16 straight games and in 18 of his last 19 contests.

Reynolds said: "I think I got more wrapped up in the change, the stadium being sold out every night and the expectations that everybody else put on me that I did not focus in on what I needed to do to be successful. You can get wrapped up in things in that way unless you grab yourself before you get too far off."

Had all things been equal, Reynolds, 28, might have been able to shake off the first month of the season, which saw his batting average hover between .100 and .200, as just an early slump.

But the slump only brought east questions that had been raised in Seattle about the direction of Reynolds' career.

The former Gold Glove second baseman had seen his batting average slide from a career high .300 in 1989 to .252 in 1990 to .254 in 1991 to .247 last season, which also marked the first time that Reynolds didn't get at least 500 at-bats in a season.

The Mariners made it clear to Reynolds at the end of 1992 that he would not be back in Seattle and that rookie Bret Boone would get the nod at second.

Reynolds signed with the Orioles as a free agent for this season, while Boone, who had a horrendous April, was sent back to the minors.

Boone's demotion might have given Reynolds a bit of satisfaction, but his slump might have reinforced lingering doubts about his productivity.

Oriole first base coach Davey Lopes, who, like Reynolds, was cleared out from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1982 to make room for a younger player, namely Steve Sax, cautioned Reynolds about the dangers of making too much of his slump.

Lopes said: "When you get rejected in this game, and you have a couple of down years, you have a tendency to maybe think, 'Maybe I'm not as good as I thought I was.' He's young. He has to learn to be aggressive again, believe in himself and have somebody else believe in him and go from there."

Then, the American League schedule makers conspired to make things even tougher emotionally for Reynolds.

In his first eight games, he was forced to confront the specter of Bill Ripken, the Baltimore native dispatched to the Texas Rangers to make room for Reynolds in two series and the Mariners in Seattle for the other.

Reynolds said: "I go back to Seattle and I'm going to kill them with every pitch and every play. Here, I'm head to head with Billy and I'm going to show them what the difference is. That just doesn't work."

Lopes said: "I'm sure he was trying to outplay Billy and trying to prove to people that we (the Orioles) made a good deal. We made the right deal, but he was being human. He tried to do too much and make everyone who had faith in him look good. Players get so keyed up and they get so tense. They want to do so well, so badly, that they end up doing just the opposite and that's what was happening."

LATE ORIOLES GAME

Last night's Orioles-Red Sox game at Camden Yards was delayed by rain and did not end in time to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions of The Sun and all editions of The Evening Sun. For the latest sports results, call SUNDIAL at (410) 783-1800, ext. 5001 (in Anne Arundel County, call [410] 268-7736, ext. 5001).

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