Orioles' Reynolds breaks out of 0-for-22 slump with two-run homer

Third baseman hopes to build off shot; Wieters walls off plate

April 24, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

A homer was the last thing on Mark Reynolds' mind when he strode to the plate in the seventh inning Sunday against New York Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain.

After going 22 consecutive at-bats without a hit, the Orioles' new third baseman would have been plenty content with a swinging bunt hit, a broken-bat single or a blooper into shallow right field. Even when he redirected Chamberlain's pitch to deep right field, he half expected something bad to happen.

Six consecutive games without a hit will do that to a player.

"I was just hoping [Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher] would trip and fall maybe and it would drop in," Reynolds said of his two-run homer that cut the Orioles' deficit to one run in an eventual 6-3 loss. "I just got enough of it, and it was a little warmer day. It wasn't as cold, so the ball was flying a little bit better. Like I said, it kind of got me out my funk."

Reynolds struck out in his next at-bat in the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera and popped out in the 11th to end the game, leaving him 1-for-5 on the afternoon and leaving his average at .179 through 20 games. He also has two homers and 12 RBIs.

"I kind of got my confidence back a little bit," said Reynolds, who before Sunday hadn't driven in a run since April 15. "I felt like I had good at-bats all day, got a little unlucky with … some balls-and-strikes calls."

Still, the homer was a pleasing sight to Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who said before the game that he felt that the third baseman was close to breaking out.

"I think he will go some periods where he will do some things real well for us for a period of time, like all our guys," Showalter said. "But right now, you all heard me respond to it when someone says, 'Are they pressing?' Well, of course they are pressing. They try hard. Mark cares and I see the work he's doing every day, and I think when it comes, it's going to be impressive."

Wieters stonewalls Jeter

Showalter is fond of saying that young catcher Matt Wieters is the best tagger he has ever seen behind the plate. Wieters also proved once again that he's not afraid to stand in there and take a potential hit.

Wieters stood his ground in the 10th inning, when Derek Jeter was attempting to slide home as the go-ahead run on Alex Rodriguez's bid at a sacrifice fly. Center fielder Adam Jones made a great throw, but Jeter arrived at home plate ahead of it. However, Wieters never allowed Jeter to reach the plate, blocking him off.

"He looked [like] he was going to jump, and I thought maybe I could get in under it," Jeter said. "But no, he blocked me."

Wieters credited Jones for the great throw and said all he had to was block the plate and apply the tag.

"I don't think there's any way Matt was going to let him get through there," Showalter said. "And those are the things I'm talking about and make me go home at night and feel good about the effort, and they'll get a good return on it if they keep playing like that."

No retaliation

The pre-game conversation centered on whether the Yankees would retaliate after Josh Rupe hit Russell Martin, who already had two homers in the game, in the ninth inning with a pitch between the shoulder blades. Rupe denied throwing a purpose pitch, while several New York players, including Martin, said that they felt the Orioles reliever was intentionally throwing at the Yankee.

However, Sunday's game came and went with no further incident between the clubs.

'Like I said last night, I understand their concern," Showalter said before the game. "I know what it looked like, and I would be upset, too. But I would choose to believe my guy. We'll deal with it. [It's] self-inflicted."

Deepening their bench

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail met with Showalter on Sunday morning, and one of the topics of their discussion was whether the club needs to stick with 13 pitchers and 12 position players.

"Andy and I talked about it a little bit, about how and when it could happen, but there's nothing imminent there," Showalter said.

Ideally, the Orioles would like to add a more conventional backup catcher, like Craig Tatum, and allow Jake Fox to return to a utility role. However, with Brad Bergesen struggling and Chris Tillman ailing, they feel that it's more important to keep another reliever to protect their young rotation.

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