When Orioles manager Johnny Oates told Brady Anderson his post-chickenpox spot in the batting order would be eighth instead of first, he had compelling documentation.
All he had to do was mention one name: Harold Reynolds.
Reynolds is hitting seven points above his career average of .260. He is second to Cal Ripken in games played. He is second behind Mark McLemore in stolen bases.
And he entered last night's game with an Orioles season-high 15-game hitting streak. It ended, however, when he went 0-for-3 with twowalks and a sacrifice fly in the Orioles' 15-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards.
Reynolds, who had batted No. 9 most of the season, began leading off when Anderson went on the disabled list and missed 15 games. It was around that time that Reynolds went on his hitting streak.
"It would be tough to move them out of the 1-2 hole," said Oates, referring also to No. 2 hitter McLemore. "They've been on base more than anyone the last two weeks -- which is what they're supposed to do.
"Reynolds has his hitting streak and has been good at second base and great leading off. McLemore leads the team in RBI, stolen basesand hits."
Oates didn't tell Anderson all this. He didn't need to. He simply had to mention the names.
"Coming out of spring training, no one was saying Reynolds would be second to Junior [Ripken] in games played at the All-Star break," Oates said. "No one thought he'd have played almost every inning."
Reynolds, signed by the Orioles last December as a free agent for a one-year contract of $1.65 million, professes no surprise that he's playing so much.
"When they sign a guy for this kind of money, he expects to play every day," Reynolds said. "Unless he doesn't produce."
Since a .146 start in his first 15 games, Reynolds has produced. Hisaverage has climbed steadily toward the goal he set weeks ago: .275 by the All-Star break.
"Last month, in Cleveland during a rain delay, [first-base coach] Davey Lopes told me, 'Hey, you're just trying to meet the ball. Let it go. Swing!' " said Reynolds, who entered last night's game at .270 but dropped to .267.
"I was in the .240s at the time, and [hitting coach] Greg Biagini said I should set a goal of .275 at the break. If you don't set goals, you tend to wander."
His stint as leadoff batter has been beneficial, not so much because of the position in the order but because of the extra at-bats.
"As the No. 9 hitter, I was getting three or four at-bats a game," he said. "Leading off, I get four or five, even six. That's a substantial difference. When Brady goes back to No. 1 and I go to No. 9, well, I'll just keep swinging."
Despite his strong season, Reynolds entertains no visions of seeking megabucks in the off-season.
"I'm not complaining about what I'm making. I'm no Roberto Alomar with his $4 million or $5 million [actually $4.83 million]," Reynolds said, referring to one of the game's best second basemen. "I'd love to come back here."