By Peter Schmuck, The Baltimore Sun
7:11 PM EDT, September 27, 2011
Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds apparently will break his string of three straight seasons with 200 strikeouts or more, but he said Tuesday that he has made no conscious effort to avoid that dubious plateau.
"I don't ever think about that," he said. "I've done it three times, so it doesn't ever cross my mind as long as I feel I am doing what I should be doing at the plate."
Reynolds entered Tuesday night's game with 192 strikeouts, and he joked beforehand that it was too early to assume that he wouldn't get eight strikeouts in the final two games of the season. He used to be more sensitive about his contact issues, but he clearly has made peace with that during a season in which he has hit 37 home runs and raised his batting average while making the tough transition to the American League East.
"The first month and a half, I was struggling really bad," he said, "but I got on a hot streak and got some confidence. I've got to admit I was a little skeptical of what I was going to be able to do in this league."
Though he has proven he can hit with great power anywhere, he said he will come back next season with a couple of things on his to-do list.
"I want to come out next year, raise my average a little bit and be more consistent on the defensive side of the ball," he said.
If it's any consolation, Reynolds is no longer the only player to strike out 200 times in a season. Cincinnati Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs joined the tiny club last week.
Most of the speculation about the date of the Orioles' coming front office shakeup has focused on Thursday, and manager Buck Showalter seemed to confirm that during his pre-game news conference Tuesday. Asked about what aspects of the team he felt needed the most work during the offseason, he indicated that the organizational transition would start almost immediately.
"We all have ideas," he said, "but I don't know that now is the time to be discussing them. Our season ends tomorrow. I'll make a bet there will be things going on Thursday that will be moving toward next year."
There aren't a lot of player moves that can be made that quickly, so it's fair to assume he was talking about getting the front office aligned properly before the Orioles can set about improving the team on the field.
"Things move pretty fast in this game," Showalter said. "I feel pretty confident we'll be pretty relentless about trying to improve our club."
Showalter said he has had conversations with players about his expectations for their offseason preparation, and at least one player has agreed to go to the instructional league next week to work on things.
He said the club also would take a more proactive role in that preparation with expanded mini-camp activity in January.
"I'm all for trust," Showalter said, "but there are some things you monitor, too. Everybody will leave here knowing what the expectations are between now and when we get to Sarasota. The last thing I want to do or we want to do is get surprised by something in Sarasota."
Limping to the end
No, not the Orioles, who have been beating up on all the wild-card contenders. It's Showalter, who sprained his ankle before Monday night's game and has been taking a lot of abuse from his players for his injury.
When he reached the field Tuesday, a sign was anchored on the edge of the grass that read: "Caution. Watch Your Step. (Buck)."
X-rays were negative, and Showalter should be able to make it through the final two games.
The Orioles are getting national attention because of the hurting they've put on the Red Sox, which has made the final series so playoff-significant.
Tuesday night's game was nationally televised on MLB Network, and Wednesday's game will be broadcast on ESPN.
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