PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bryan Reynolds made a promise during his first days as a major leaguer, a vow that spoke volumes about the understated Pittsburgh Pirates rookie outfielder’s mindset.
It has helped him evolve from a relative unknown in the deal that sent Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants to an invaluable cog in an offense that’s desperately trying to keep Reynolds’ injury-plagued team afloat.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to strive to get in front of the camera at every opportunity I get,” Reynolds said shortly after making his major league debut on April 20.
He wasn’t kidding.
When the media descended on the Pirates’ clubhouse shortly after Reynolds’ three-run home run capped the franchise’s biggest rally in over a decade in an 8-7 victory over Detroit on Wednesday night, Reynolds’ locker was already empty. No talking about a 3-for-4 night that boosted his average to .362 — tops among first-year players — or trying to put his electrifying start into perspective. That’s simply not his way.
Besides, his teammates are doing a pretty good job serving as his hype men anyway.
“What Bryan Reynolds is doing right now is extremely impressive,” pitcher Trevor Williams said. “I hope a lot more eyes are being opened to who he is as a ballplayer and who he is as a person, because it’s really, really impressive. I hope he gets the attention that he deserves.”
If the switch-hitting Reynolds keeps raking, he’s going to get it whether he wants it or not.
Acquired along with reliever Kyle Crick in January 2018 as part of the deal that sent McCutchen — a hugely popular five-time All-Star who served as the foundation around which the Pirates shed two decades of losing — to the Giants, the 24-year-old Reynolds has become a fixture on manager Clint Hurdle’s lineup card. Putting together a pair of hitting streaks of at least 10 games in your first two months in the majors will do that.
Reynolds has played so well and so steadily — collecting at least one hit in 37 of the 43 games he’s started — it has allowed the Pirates not to rush veteran Corey Dickerson back from a strained right shoulder that sidelined him for more than two months. Dickerson, who won a Gold Glove and hit .300 after coming to Pittsburgh on the eve of the 2018 season, has quickly developed a bond with Reynolds since returning from the injured list. The two nerd-out almost daily over hitting and Dickerson hasn’t been shy about offering bits of advice.
Dickerson suggested to Reynolds that he write down everything that’s working for him at the moment so he can come back to it later when things go sideways. Thing is, Dickerson isn’t so sure how sideways things will get for Reynolds.
“He’s so simple,” Dickerson said. “He has a simple approach. When you’re simple like that, you’re going to have good contact.”
A second-round pick by the Giants in the 2016 draft, Reynolds earned a call-up to the Pirates following injuries to Dickerson and Starling Marte and a hot start at Triple-A Indianapolis, where he hit five home runs in 13 games. His power doesn’t come so much from strength — he’s a lean 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds — but rather solid mechanics and a knack for knowing when to pounce.
When Detroit’s Nick Ramirez floated a 78 mph breaking ball over the outer half of the plate with two on in the sixth on Wednesday night, Reynolds turned on it, dropped his bat and started sprinting, only taking a cursory glance at the ball as it landed five rows deep into the left-field bleachers to give the Pirates the lead.
“It was a big-time play by a big-time player,” Williams said. “He’s been doing nothing but impressing Pirates and guys he’s been playing against.”
Not that you’d know it by watching Reynolds. When he crossed home plate, he celebrated by nonchalantly bashing forearms with teammates Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman, then jogged back to the dugout with only the hint of a grin emerging from underneath facial hair best described as a wispy rumor of a goatee.
Reynolds arrived in Pittsburgh the same day as ebullient shortstop Cole Tucker. The charismatic Tucker quickly became a fan favorite with his ever-present grin and the massive set of curls that erupt from underneath his cap when he tries to turn a single into a double. Reynolds is the opposite. Throw a flannel shirt on him and put a guitar in his hands and he looks like he could be the low-key bass player in a Southern rock band.
Call it part of what Hurdle described as a “cool, calm and collected” demeanor that has allowed Reynolds to adjust quickly to the majors. He won’t keep hitting .362, but Hurdle thinks he might stick closer to that number than most predict.
“I’m always intrigued by the fact they say he was under the radar or he’s over-performed,” Hurdle said. “Maybe we underestimated him. Maybe we under-evaluated him. Could be one or the other. All I know is he gets a chance, he shows up, he plays, he works hard. And there’s a lot of value to be said for that.”