TOM WITHERS,AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians swung and missed with Mark Reynolds.
Unable to wait any longer for him to find his swing, the team designated the slumping slugger for assignment on Thursday, ending his first season in Cleveland, one which began with power and production but fizzled out quickly with Reynolds on the bench.
“It was becoming harder for Mark to be able to handle not playing,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “So it was time to do what we did.”
Lacking a power-hitting right-handed bat for their lineup, the Indians signed Reynolds to a one-year, $6 million contract in December. Reynolds, who hit 60 homers in the previous two seasons in Baltimore, started well and hit 13 homers in April and May. His teammates even nicknamed him “Mega Mark” for a few of his monstrous, tape-measure shots.
Then he began to miss.
Reynolds batted .301 (25 for 83) in April, but just .187 (47 for 252) since. He batted .098 (5 for 51) with one RBI in July.
He’s batting just .215 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs, and the free-swinger has struck out 123 times. He’s only hit two homers since May and none since June 28.
While Reynolds slumped, Francona had no choice but to reduce his role, giving most of the playing time and at-bats to Ryan Raburn, who signed a two-year contract extension with the club on Wednesday, and Mike Aviles.
The Indians had held out hope Reynolds would get hot again, and maybe carry their offense the way he did with the Orioles last season, when he helped Baltimore win one of the AL’s two wild-card spots.
But Cleveland, which enters Thursday’s series finale against Detroit a season-high six games behind the Tigers in the AL Central, ran out of patience and decided to designate the 29-year-old Reynolds, who maintained a positive attitude and always handled himself professionally during his months-long skid.
“For Mark, a guy that carried us the first month of the season and from that point to here, it’s been pretty rough,” Francona said. “It was getting harder and harder to find at-bats so he could get hot. We all felt like he had a streak in him but with Raburn swinging the bat the way he is, Aviles playing really well, it was becoming harder to get him to where he was going to get hot.”
The Indians have 10 days to trade, release or place Reynolds on waivers.
Francona said he and general manager Chris Antonetti met with Reynolds following Wednesday’s game. It was a difficult conversation.
“It wasn’t one we were looking forward to,” Francona said.
Reynolds told the Indians he would not accept a minor league assignment.
Before they signed him, the Indians were well aware that Reynolds could be streaky, but they were encouraged when he started strongly.
“We knew when we got him he wasn’t a .300 hitter,” Francona said. “He was hitting .300 and basically hitting everything in sight (in April). It’s probably not as easy as one sentence but the pitches he was hitting in April, sometimes you get one pitch an at-bat and he’d miss it or foul it and then he’d strike out. Earlier in the season he was hitting it and doing a lot of damage.”
To take Reynolds’ roster spot, the club recalled reliever Preston Guilmet (gil-met) from Triple-A Columbus. He’ll give manager Terry Francona another arm after the Indians wore out their bullpen in a 14-inning loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.
This is Guilmet’s second stint with Cleveland. He made his major league debut with the club on July 10. In 42 appearances with the Clippers, Guilmet is 4-4 with a 1.95 ERA and 18 saves. He has struck out 64 in 55 1-3 innings.
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