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The Strike Zone

Yankees hoping to wake up moribund right-side of lineup with Mark Reynolds pick-up

New York will try to get Mark Reynolds back to crushing home runs like he was at the beginning of the season. (Ted S. Warren/AP) New York will try to get Mark Reynolds back to crushing home runs like he was at the beginning of the season. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

It seems like an eternity ago, but it was just this past May that Mark Reynolds was one of the hottest hitters on the planet. Yes, hotter than Chris Davis. On the night of May 9, Reynolds hit his AL-leading 11th home run of the season. The notoriously streaky 29-year-old was off to one of his great hot streaks and leading the Indians to a fast start in the AL Central. His signing with Cleveland over the winter, a one-year, $6 million deal, was starting to look like one of the better acquisitions of the offseason.

And then everything fell apart. Reynolds not only stopped hitting for home runs, he stopped hitting altogether. He’s always been an all-or-nothing kind of slugger — in 2008 he became the first big leaguer to strike out more than 200 times in a season, then did so again the following two seasons — but what came after his smashing start was still unexpected. Reynolds connected on just two home runs after May, none after June 28. After hitting .301 (25-for-83) in April, he hit only .187 (47-for-252) after the month, and just .098 (5-for-51) with one RBI in the entire month of July. When Cleveland finally designated Reynolds for assignment last week, no one was shocked.

Now Reynolds is joining the Yankees. The 29-year-old agreed to a deal with New York on Thursday, according to CBSSports.com, and with the Yankees it seems he’ll platoon with Lyle Overbay at first and see time at third base and DH. The Yankees’ need for right-handed power is well-documented — the club’s right-handed hitters have hit only 36 home runs with a .326 slugging percentage — and they’re hoping Reynolds, who has a career .264/.349/.639 batting line at Yankee Stadium, can rediscover his swing and give the putrid lineup another jolt following the trade deadline addition of Alfonso Soriano.

Reynolds is certainly capable of giving the Yankees two or three hot weeks at the plate during this final stretch of the season, but that alone won’t be enough to get New York to the postseason. The climb is too steep. The Yankees enter the weekend 8.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, and 6 games behind the Rays, who hold the top spot in the wild card standings. After winning four straight, the Yankees lost 8-4 to the Angels on Thursday. Soriano, following his 13 RBI-performance over the previous two games, had another four hits, but the rest of the lineup continued to struggle to get big hits, and now the Yankees start a critical three-game series against the Red Sox in Boston, where it’s possible Reynolds will make his Yankees debut Friday night against Felix Doubront.
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