New Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds showed up at the Orioles Reach holiday party on Tuesday and waded right into his new baseball community. He also walked right into another round of questions about his difficult 2010 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Give him this much. He didn't duck any of them -- not even the ones that included comparative references to Garrett Atkins, who came to Baltimore under similar circumstances last year and did nothing to repay the Orioles for taking a $4 million chance on him.
I guess when you hit a career-low .198 and strike out more than 200 times for the third straight season, you've got to expect that sort of thing.
"I think I've been compared to him a few times by a lot of people out here, with both of us coming off down years and the Orioles kind of trying to take a chance on something," he said, "but I feel I'm a good player and I'm not pressured or nervous by any means to go perform because I know I can."
It's probably not a fair comparison. Atkins was coming off four straight years of declining offensive numbers when the Orioles tried to revive his career. Reynolds hit 44 home runs two seasons ago for the Diamondbacks and -- even with that scary batting average and all those strikeouts -- he still had 32 homers and 85 RBIs last year.
If you want that put into a more local perspective, I'll turn this column over to manager Buck Showalter for a moment.
"He would have led us in four categories last year,'' Showalter said.
That's true. Reynolds would have led the Orioles in home runs, RBIs, runs (tied with Nick Markakis) and walks, but he also is the only player in major league history to strike out more than 200 times in a season, and he has done that in each of the past three seasons.
Of course, 200-plus strikeouts doesn't look quite so bad when you hit 44 homers, score 98 runs and drive in 102 the way he did in 2009, and I'm pretty sure Orioles fans would happily accept that tradeoff if Reynolds can crank out that kind of run-production at Camden Yards this year.
"I'm looking forward to having this year start because that's all I hear about is 'you had such a terrible year' or whatever," he said. "I'm not making excuses for it, but I had injuries, I struggled at times, I had a concussion. It was just one thing after another it seemed like last year, so I'm definitely looking forward to getting that behind me and getting a fresh start here in Baltimore so I won't have to talk about that anymore."
Maybe it was the spirit of the season -- and the presence of all those happy school kids at Dave & Buster's in the Arundel Mills mall on Tuesday -- but Reynolds said all that without a hint of rancor. He seems pretty comfortable in his skin, and he looked good in his new No. 12 jersey, even if he was wearing it over street clothes.
Showalter said he's very comfortable with Reynolds at third base and isn't spending a lot of time fretting about the wide gulf between Reynolds' healthy 2010 run-production numbers and his problems making consistent contact.
"I think it's a mistake to go into it [and say], 'Hey, Mark, how ya' doing, let's go over here and talk about how we can reduce your strikeouts,'" Showalter said. "It falls underneath the 'No [bleep]' column. I won't be surprised if he strikes out 200 times, but he would have led us in four categories and we don't have that cat walking around here yet. We hope it's Josh Bell one day, but it might be at first base, left field or somewhere else."
"We were 28th and 30th at shortstop, third base, first base and left field last year in all of baseball. With J.J. [Hardy] and hopefully what we can do at first base and good health in left field, we'll climb out of that hole."
Still, it isn't as if Reynolds is taking the strikeout thing lightly. He knows what it would mean to his overall numbers if he could knock, say, 50 strikeouts off last year's total, and he has been working with former Oriole Brady Anderson on adjusting his approach when he's behind in the count.
"It's obviously a priority,'' he said. "I realize that I'm not going to be very successful in the long term if I keep doing what I'm doing at the rate I'm doing it. If I knew the answer, I would have done it last year."
Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays with Brett Hollander. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.