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Published: Friday, 8/9/2013

NOTEBOOK

‘Mega Mark’ sent packing

Indians designate struggling 3rd baseman for assignment

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND — A month into the season, Indians slugger Mark Reynolds wielded one of the game’s hottest bats and was speeding toward a big free-agent payday.

By Thursday, he was out of a job.

Cleveland designated Reynolds for assignment, finally running out of patience after his sizzling start gave way to a glacial summer.

Reynolds, signed by the Indians to a one-year, $6 million contract as a needed right-handed power bat, had fallen off the baseball earth since hitting 13 home runs in April and May. His average fell from .301 in April to .218 in May to .187 in June to .098 in July (5 for 51). The player teammates dubbed "Mega Mark" for his tape-measure blasts had only two homers since May and none since June 28.

With reserves Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles playing well, the Indians could no longer justify waiting for Reynolds to find his swing. In all, he was batting .215 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs.

"Mark carried us the first month of the season," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But from that point to here, it’s been pretty rough, and it was getting harder and harder to find at-bats so he could get hot."

The Indians have 10 days to trade, release, or or waive Reynolds, who had averaged more than 30 homers over his first five full big-league seasons but gained as much notoriety for his prolific strikeout numbers.

Francona said "we all felt like he had another streak in him." With the free-swinging Reynolds, he said, it was often all or nothing.

"We knew when we got him he wasn’t a .300 hitter," Francona said. "He was hitting .300 and hitting everything in sight. [Since then], the pitches he was hitting in April, he was either fouling off or [missing]. Sometimes you get that one pitch an at-bat, and you miss it or foul it and stirke out. Earlier in the season, he was hitting it and doing a lot of damage."

Cleveland called up right-handed reliever Preston Guilmet from Triple-A Columbus and will, for now, have an eight-man bullpen. Reynolds told the Indians he would not accept an assignment to Triple-A Columbus if he clears waivers.

INFANTE NEARS RETURN? Tigers second baseman Omar Infante resumed his rehab assignment with the Mud Hens after sitting Wednesday with a sore ankle.

Infante, out since July 3 with a sprained left ankle, went 1 for 5 for the Hens on Tuesday and batted leadoff Thursday in Indianapolis. Manager Jim Leyland had no update on his status.

MAKING AN IMPRESSION: The Tigers clubhouse continued to buzz Thursday about Tribe rookie Danny Salazar’s 10-strikeout performance a night earlier.

In his second big-league start, the 23-year-old right-hander held Detroit to two runs through seven innings before allowing a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera on his final pitch in the eighth. Salazar’s 17 strikeouts are the most by an Indians pitcher in his first two starts since Luis Tiant had 17 in 1964.

"For somebody that was a total stranger that I saw for the first time, I haven’t seen anything like it," Leyland said. "That was pretty impressive. Wow. Easy 97, 98, 99, easy. Good delivery, control, that’s as impressive as it gets."

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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