Few defenders in baseball have taken more abuse than Reynolds in recent seasons. He led the American League with 31 errors last year and began this season with several misplays at third base. But teammates and manager Buck Showalter have gone out of their way to praise his play at first base, noting the way he works at it every day during batting practice.
“Mark impacts our club over there,” Showalter said.
Teammates agree that Reynolds, who has hit seven home runs in September, has been a better all-around player since achieving some measure of peace with his glove work.
“He looks more relaxed, like he's not just focusing on his defense,” Britton said. “He looks more relaxed at the plate, too, because his defense is solid and he doesn't have that added pressure of everyone always talking about him at third. He plays a great first base.”
Reynolds' shift would have been less impactful, however, if Machado had not arrived to wipe away the club's struggles at third base.
Machado was a shortstop in high school and in the minor leagues, and he hopes to return to the more glamorous defensive position one day. But Hardy, the smooth-fielding veteran who's blocking him, said he's been amazed at how easily the kid has adapted to an unfamiliar position.
“He came up here and looked comfortable, like he fits right in,” Hardy said. “Obviously, he's real good defensively. He fields balls cleanly, and he has a strong arm. That didn't surprise me, but the fact that he can adjust to third base and be as comfortable as he is and be as aware of everything around him, that's really impressed me. It's very different. That position, you don't have a chance to read the hops. You're just reacting, so it's totally different.”
Machado has said he, too, is surprised with the ease of his transition. But talent is talent, as he alluded to in explaining his great fake-out play against the Rays.
“It just comes out,” Machado told reporters after the game. “That's one thing about having good instincts for the game. Things come out that you don't ever plan or you don't even practice.”