BRADENTON, Fla. — Pittsburgh left fielder R.J. Reynolds could have been forgiven for feeling left out when the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers traded him to the last-place Pirates late last season.
"It would have been easy for me to be unhappy, to think about not being with them when they won the division championship after being with them all season," Reynolds said.
"The only thing I would have really missed would have wearing that World Series ring if they had gotten there. A lot of players go their whole careers and don't get one of those," he said.
The Pirates aren't likely to be measured for any of the diamond-studded rings in the immediate future if their consecutive last-place finishes in the National League East are any indication.
But Reynolds said that helping rebuild a young team like the Pirates is more satisfying than being with an established team like the Dodgers, "especially if you're playing instead of just being a cheerleader."
"Coming to Pittsburgh was a good career move for me," he said. "I'm just not saying that because I'm supposed to, because I'm taking the company line. I mean that."
Reynolds had impressive minor league numbers--.337 at double-A San Antonio in 1983 and .347 at triple-A Albuquerque in 1984--but they didn't translate into a starting position with the Dodgers.
"I wanted to go to a team that would give me an opportunity," he said. "I just wanted to play. I would have gone to Cleveland if it meant I could play."
Reynolds, Mike Brown and Sid Bream, acquired by the Pirates in late-season deals, all responded to playing rather than sitting.
Reynolds, hitting .265 in Los Angeles, batted .308 in 31 games with the Pirates and had three home runs and 17 runs batted in.
Brown, expected to be the Pirates' starting right fielder this season, hit .268 in California and .332 in Pittsburgh. Bream, who had shared the Dodgers' bench with Reynolds, hit .151 in L.A. but jumped to .284 with the Pirates.
"This was a last-place team that lost 104 games, but a lot of us weren't here for the whole season," said Reynolds. "This is a new year and a lot of us are happy to be in Pittsburgh."
That would seem an unlikely sentiment for a 25-year-old Californian who had to adjust to playing before thousands of empty seats in Pittsburgh, a city without Los Angeles' reputation for off-the-field excitement.
"It all depends on what you want out of life," Reynolds said. "I could be a Hollywood smug type of guy and say there isn't a lot to do in Pittsburgh, but that's not connected with what I want.
"Like everybody else who has played regularly all his life and then gets to the big leagues and has to sit down, I want to play. The chance is here for me in Pittsburgh. In Los Angeles, I played winter ball because I knew I would only be the fourth or fifth outfielder. I've got a better situation here. Now I've got to prove myself," he said.
As far as the 6-foot, 190-pound Reynolds is concerned, the trade gave him a license to steal. Given the green light by former Manager Chuck Tanner to run when he wanted, he stole 12 bases in 14 attempts and was successful on his last nine attempts.
"I'll try to steal whenever I can. I believe in playing aggressively," he said. "Of course, you've got to get on before you can steal, so I'm really working on my hitting down here."