The other day at Washington Nationals camp, infielder Jerry Hairston volunteered that Baltimore Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds was going to have a big year.
I couldn’t figure out the connection. Hairston and Reynolds have never been teammates. But Hairston told me they share the same offseason hitting coach: Brady Anderson.
Yes, that Brady Anderson, the former Orioles slugger who hit 50 home runs in 1996 but not more than 24 in any other season.
Anderson, 47, is now a spring-training hitting instructor with the Orioles and also works privately with players in Los Angeles during the winter.
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Reynolds became a pupil of Anderson’s even before the Arizona Diamondbacks traded him to the Orioles on Dec. 6. They not only worked on Reynolds’ swing, but Anderson also prescribed a conditioning program for Reynolds that included sprints and weight work.
Reynolds batted .198 in 2010 with a .320 on-base percentage and .433 slugging average, career lows in each category. He had 32 home runs and 211 strikeouts in 499 at-bats.
“Obviously, he had an off year last year,” Anderson said. “But even when he hit 44 homers (in 2009) . . . because of his strikeouts, he gets negative attention that is unjust in my opinion.
“I’ve talked to some managers he played for. This guy is a really good fielder. He is a really low-key but hard-nosed player who is willing to work and a really good teammate.”
So, might Reynolds indeed be a different guy this season?
“Absolutely,” Anderson said. “I think he’s comfortable with his swing. Last year, he just felt he was out of sync. I know what it’s like to feel out of sync. Certain hitters, like Manny (Ramirez) and Robinson Cano, never really get out of sync. They’ve had the same swing since they were teenagers. They mastered their skills earlier.
“It’s such a hard skill. A hitter knows his swing is off when he steps into the batter’s box. And when you know your swing is off, it’s hard to focus on the most important thing — getting a pitch to drive, seeing the ball.”
Jim Presley, the Orioles’ new hitting coach, will be the instructor who works most closely with Reynolds this season. But if Reynolds bounces back, give Anderson an assist, too.
— Ken Rosenthal