The return to big leagues for Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Matt Reynolds is officially complete. After making his last appearance in a major league game a little over two years ago following Tommy John surgery, Reynolds was back on the mound for the D-backs in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati; a win that clinched a series sweep of the Reds and vaulted Arizona to within five games of the first place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
Despite the nerves, Reynolds appeared sharp, striking out two in his one inning of work and showing glimpses of the player who boasted a 1.98 ERA in 27.1 innings of work back in 2013.
“After that first out, you kind of take a breath and go, ‘alright, I’ve been doing this all season and I’ve done it in the past,'” Reynolds said. “You know you can compete and do it at that level, so once you get that first out out of the way, it’s really just back to doing what you know how to do.”
Of course, knowing what do to do was never a problem for the 30-year-old Reynolds. Getting his body to cooperate, however, was a different story altogether. With an ERA that ballooned well over 5.00 in 45 minor league games, Reynolds admits that doubt crept into his mind on more than one occasion as he worked to return to form.
“The first part of the season was really tough on me,” Reynolds said. “My arm wasn’t totally responding as well as the other guys and I really wasn’t throwing the ball as well as I would have liked. My arm was achy and sore a lot [after throwing], but right around All-Star break I kind of got home and got to rest my arm for a few days and after that, I feel like even though I’ve been giving up runs here and there, I feel like I’ve definitely been throwing the ball better as of late which has helped me with my confidence.
“I was probably in the middle of one of the best seasons I have ever had and then I get hurt. At that point, you’ve got to kind of evaluate ‘am I ever going to make it back, is this the end of my career.’ The first couple weeks was definitely really, really difficult, but like I said and like all those other guys have done, you’ve got to block out bad and try to focus on your rehab and getting back to where you want to be.”
To steal a reference from Happy Gilmore, you could say that Reynolds is finally in his happy place; reaching his final destination on a path wrought with its fair share of blood, sweat and tears to lend a helping hand for a team suddenly in the thick of a pennant race. For that, Reynolds couldn’t be more thankful, doing his best to savor the moment — and his surroundings — every opportunity he gets.
“You really forget how much fun it is to get out there and compete at the highest level,” Reynolds said. “To get back out there and see how big the stadiums are; you forget how big these big league parks are until you get back down there in the minor leagues and see some of the smaller stadiums.
“It’s just kind of one of those times where you can reflect and be really thankful for the opportunities that have been given and thankful for my wife for being with me every step of the way. It’s just a really nice time for me.”