Mark Reynolds' storybook return to the big leagues

Chris Lingebach
May 17, 2018 - 4:50 pm
Mark_Reynolds_Home_Run

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A month and a half into the season, Mark Reynolds began 2018 with a bang, launching two homers for three RBI in the Nationals' 6-4 win in Arizona on Sunday.

A month earlier, the 34-year-old slugger had been sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring. The Nationals had offered him a minor-league deal from the outset of spring training, but Reynolds, an accomplished big-league hitter, turned them away, still hoping for a Major League invitation.

When that offer hadn't materialized, the Nationals -- 6-6 and trailing in the division by 4.5 games -- gave Reynolds another call, looking for some more pop off the bench.

"He was sitting on the couch, working out on his own and just trying to piece together what he was going to do after having a really good season last year," Nats GM Mike Rizzo said during his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies, sponsored by Burke & Herbert Bank. "He was kind of bummed out that he wasn't getting any Major League offers and he was just working out on his own and waiting for an opportunity."

Reynolds was indeed coming off a really good season. He hit 30 bombs for the Rockies, with 97 RBI and an .839 OPS in 2017. Working for Arizona, Rizzo drafted Reynolds in the 16th round out of the University of Virginia -- where Reynolds was college teammates with Ryan Zimmerman -- in 2004. He leaned on that prior relationship to get through to Reynolds the second time around.

"I think the relationship that we had, we kind of talked him into a role here and he saw some things that could fit for him and went for it," Rizzo said. "The result is that he's in the big leagues with us after about two weeks of playing and helped us win that game in Arizona extremely well."

Rizzo relayed the conversation that bent Reynolds' ear in the direction of signing.

"We liked him at the beginning of spring training. We reached out and made an offer," he said. "At that time, he wasn't ready to take a minor league offer because of the season that he had. And then finally, we circled back and kind of gave him a little conversation, saying, 'What are you waiting for? What are you trying to accomplish here?'"

"I want to get back to the big leagues," Reynolds said.

"(We) said, 'Well, sitting there is not gonna help you get back to the big leagues,'" Rizzo went on. "'Because if an injury happens, if something does go wrong with a team, you're gonna have to go through four weeks of spring training to get prepared. So you might as well do the four weeks now and then when something happens, you get to go right away.'

"We kind of mapped out a plan of attack for him and he accepted it, and we signed him the next day."

On May 12, the Nationals placed Zimmerman on the 10-day disabled list with an oblique strain, and Reynolds, after 10 tune-up games in Syracuse, was back in the big leagues, homering -- twice -- the next day against the team that drafted him 14 years earlier. Storybook.

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