Reynolds proving clutch for Brewers

Apr 8, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Mark Reynolds (7) hits a double during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Milwaukee Brewers defeated Philadelphia Phillies 10-4. Photo: Image by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Reynolds proving clutch for Brewers

By Nick Michalski. CREATED Apr 9, 2014

The Milwaukee Brewers' offense had struggled as much as any in the league going into this past weekend's series in Boston at Fenway Park.

In the four games since, they have gotten things rolling - in large part due to the clutch hitting of first baseman Mark Reynolds.
 
Reynolds brings the kind of mercurial power that can not only end up on the highlight reels, but can be a major source of run production for the Brew Crew. 

Fellow first baseman Lyle Overbay brings defense but a suspect bat to the equation.

Brewers rightfielder Ryan Braun had a massive day Tuesday with three home runs, but his continued production is cloudy due to his thumb injury.

Home runs and extra-base hits would be welcome from the first-base position.  That's where Reynolds comes in.

Reynolds hit a home run against the Red Sox and drove in runs in two games in that series, including an RBI single Sunday which started the scoring for the Brewers.  He then drove in catcher Jonathan Lucroy in the second inning against the Phillies Tuesday, tying the game.

While he has just the lone solo-shot home run so far, Reynolds has produced at the plate for Milwaukee in key situations.     

As manager Ron Roenicke has discovered, it's best to step away from a strict platoon at first base and take advantage of the fact that while their overall batting lines are similar, Reynolds has a bat that's too valuable to sit on the bench regularly.

Roenicke started Reynolds Tuesday against righthander Kyle Kendrick, and he's in the starting nine for Milwaukee again Wednesday against righthander Roberto Hernandez.

Roenicke has broken what had been a hard left (Overbay)-right (Reynolds) platoon at first base to start the season.  He has used some imagination and versatility with the lineup, such as on Sunday when he had Reynolds start against lefthander Jon Lester, but plugged him in at third base spelling Aramis Ramirez, who was the designated hitter.

The more at-bats Reynolds gets, the more chances the Brewers have at hitting the jackpot with his home-run swing.  Nevertheless, the Brewers will certainly take RBI singles from Reynolds in the interim.   

Reynolds, 30, is quite a bit younger than Overbay, 37.  He was more productive at the plate in 2013, when he hit 21 home runs to Overbay's 14, and drove in 67 runs compared to Overbay's 59.  Neither one of them hit for a good average in 2013 in the exact same number of at-bats (445).

However, Reynolds has now hit 56 more home runs (203 total) than Overbay in over 1,400 fewer career at-bats.  So far in 2014, he has shown the ability to sniff out RBI when the Brewers really need them.

When the Brewers released Juan Francisco, who subsequently signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and was sent to the minor leagues by that club (http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/04/blue-jays-to-sign-juan-francisco.html), it was made clear Roenicke liked Overbay's defense over Francisco's, since both are lefthanded hitters.

Overbay has shown some nifty glove work at first base already, but Reynolds has also made nice plays in the field, including a pick and throw at third base Sunday seconds after he'd filled his mouth with sunflower seeds. 



Reynolds was signed to a minor league deal in the offseason, but virtually was guaranteed a spot on the major league roster from the very beginning, largely due to his prodigious power.

Conversely, Overbay earned his way onto the team but was not the first option to receive a big share of playing time at first base.  That's prototypically a position where a power bat plays the field.      

Most pitchers in the major leagues are right-handers, so it's a good sign that Roenicke has strayed from a firm left-right platoon at first base.  Otherwise, Mark Reynolds would be sitting on the bench far more than Overbay.

The Brewers can find time for both Overbay and Reynolds using creativity, particularly if Reynolds can continue to play third base occasionally. 

The value of having these two guys on the roster was revealed this past weekend in Boston.  Both are experienced hitters and Reynolds can play more than one position acceptably.

Roenicke can play the matchups versus opposing pitchers, go with the hottest hitter, or a combination of both.

Unless defense is at a premium in a particular contest, though, the significant power potential of Reynolds means he should see a lot of at-bats going forward, instead of watching from the dugout.

Roenicke seems to like what he's seeing with Reynolds at the plate so far, because he's going with Reynolds despite the righties throwing for opposing teams.

Nick Michalski (@MichalskiNick on Twitter) is an editor and writer for The Brewers Bar.

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