Indians designate Reynolds for assignment
Slugger's prolonged slump prompts move; reliever Guilmet promoted
CLEVELAND -- The Indians brought Mark Reynolds in over the offseason to provide the kind of right-handed power the team had lacked in recent years. For one month, the all-or-nothing slugger lived up to expectations.
Reynolds' three-month tailspin since an amazing April led to Thursday's decision by Cleveland to designate the first baseman for assignment. The Indians have promoted reliever Preston Guilmet from Triple-A Columbus to give the bullpen an extra arm for the time being.
"He's a guy that carried us the first month of the season," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And then from that point to here, it's been pretty rough. It was getting harder and harder to find at-bats so he could get hot, because I think we all felt like he had a streak in him."
Reynolds is now in a 10-day waiting period, during which he is likely to be either traded or released by the Indians. Other teams will have an opportunity to also claim Reynolds off waivers, which could lead to a trade or Cleveland could simply let him go.
Francona noted that Reynolds did not request to be moved, but indicated that the struggling slugger is not interested in accepting a Minor League assignment.
"He expressed that he did not want to go to Triple-A and play baseball," Francona said. "So we do know that. Now, it's 10 minutes after a game, but that's what he told us [Wednesday] night."
Through 99 games with Cleveland, which signed him over the winter to a one-year contract with a base salary of $6 million, Reynolds hit .215 with a .307 on-base percentage, .373 slugging percentage, 15 home runs, 48 RBIs and 123 strikeouts. He opened the season as the Tribe's primary designated hitter, but he also helped out at first and third base.
Reynolds provided a powerful bat for Cleveland's lineup through May 6, when his batting average stood at .300. Over the first 28 games, he launched 10 home runs, collected 27 RBIs and posted a 1.026 OPS.
In the clubhouse, Reynolds was dubbed "Mega Mark" by his teammates for the tape-measure shots he was belting for the Tribe.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Reynolds went as cold as he started hot.
"We knew when we got him that he wasn't a .300 hitter," Francona said. "He was hitting .300 and basically hitting everything in sight. And [explaining his slump] is probably not as easy as one sentence. The pitches he was hitting in April, he was either fouling, or sometimes you get one pitch in an at-bat, and he'd miss it or foul it and strike out.
"Earlier in the season, he was getting it, he was hitting it and he was doing a lot of damage."
Over the past 71 games dating back to May 7, Reynolds has posted the lowest batting average (.179) among qualified Major League players in that time period. His .532 OPS in that span rates as the second-lowest mark among big league hitters.
That three-month slump included just five home runs and 21 RBIs to go along with 96 strikeouts.
In parts of seven seasons in the Majors -- spent between stints with the D-backs, Orioles and Indians -- Reynolds has hit .233 with 196 home runs and 549 RBI in 952 games. Across the 2008-11 campaigns, he hit .231 with an average of 35 home runs, 92 RBI and 208 strikeouts per season.
While trying to balance keeping the Indians in the American League Central race with getting Reynolds going again at the plate, Francona had reduced the slugger's playing time in recent weeks. Surprising bench contributor Ryan Raburn -- who signed a two-year contract extension on Wednesday -- has garnered more time in the starting lineup.
"With Raburn swinging the bat the way he is, and [Mike] Aviles playing really well," Francona said, "it was becoming harder to get him to where he was going to be able to get hot. And then we needed a pitcher [due to Wednesday's 14-inning game].
"And I think it was becoming harder for Mark to handle not playing. It was just time to do what we did."
Guilmet offers some bullpen insurance for the Indians, who cycled through an assortment of arms in a extra-inning loss to the Tigers on Wednesday night. The 25-year-old right-hander, who appeared in one game for the Indians earlier this season, has posted a 1.95 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings for Triple-A Columbus this season.
For the time being, Francona noted that the Indians might proceed with an eight-man bullpen, which is something the club has done in multiple stretches throughout this season. The positional versatility of players such as Raburn, Aviles, Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana has made it easier to play short-handed on the bench.
"You always have to be cognizant of the fact that, if there's any injury somewhere, all of a sudden you're looking for that bat," Francona said. "But you have to make decisions. Obviously, going into [Thursday], from where we sit, we think we're a better team with an eight-man bullpen."
Justin Masterson, who is a leader on the mound and off the field for the Indians, does not believe the move to part ways with Reynolds will negatively affect the clubhouse.
"We've still got a lot of good guys," Masterson said. "I wouldn't say it's a huge distraction, really, for anybody. But, some may let it creep in more than others. In the end, everyone knows that if you just go out and perform and do your stuff, hopefully that takes care of it.
"It may not work out here at some point in time. But, it may work somewhere else."