When Arizona called up Mark Reynolds from the Minors, one the first things he did was ask what level of the Minors he would be returned to when his time with the Diamondbacks was done.
It appears Reynolds doesn't have to worry about that anytime soon.
A reserve infielder at Single-A Lancaster at the start of the season last year, Reynolds hit 40 home runs for four different teams last year. That total includes four home runs in six games for Team USA in an Olympic qualifier tournament in Cuba and then five more in the Arizona Fall League.
When the Diamondbacks needed an infielder with some power in mid-May, they turned to Reynolds, who has since been outstanding at the plate and in the field and is now hitting cleanup for the team.
"He has really been a big charge for us," Eric Byrnes told the East Valley Tribune. "And it's not just the numbers. It's the at-bats he gives every single at-bat.
"Very rarely do you see a kid come up who has that advanced an approach when they first get to the big leagues. It is something you learn during the course of your career. Trust me. I had to learn through failure. Right now, he looks amazing."
Reynolds enters Thursday's game with a .356 batting average with five doubles, two triples, four home runs and 15 RBIs in 20 games. Before Reynolds arrived in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks scored 36 runs in 13 games. Since Reynolds joined the lineup, they have scored 101 runs in 19 games.
"This is the greatest time of my life," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said he was upset at being a reserve at the start of last season in the Minors, but he prepared himself to play every day. Once given a shot, he made the most of his opportunity.
"It kind of made me mad a little bit," he said. "I needed to get these guys to have confidence in me.
"I finally got my chance, and once I was in there I strung a few games together and tried to keep it going, because I knew if I played bad I would be back on the bench again. It was one of those do-or-die things."
Reynolds went on to hit .337 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs for Lancaster before being promoted to Double-A Tennessee in July. He then went on to play for Team USA and helped the team beat Cuba and win the tournament.
Ichiro likes what he sees in Mariners: In the past, Ichiro Suzuki has had some reservations about how good the Mariners team really is. But after he delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI double, Ichiro talked about how this year's team feels different from the recent past.
"There is some kind of atmosphere that this team has," Ichiro told the Seattle Times. "I'm not exactly able to put a finger on it. But we definitely have something going on."
With Seattle's 5-4 win over Baltimore, the Mariners moved five games over .500 and now sit just one game behind Detroit in the race for the Wild Card.
"Today was a situation where our opponent gave us a chance to win," said Ichiro. "So, when something like that happens, with the team that we have this year, I felt like, 'We can capture this.'"
Tallet rises to the occasion for Jays: With the bullpen depleted by injuries, Toronto reliever Brian Tallet is doing his best to fill the void. Tallet threw three scoreless innings Sunday to earn the win. In his last nine games, covering 17 innings, he has allowed only one run, lowering his ERA to 2.01.
Tallet said his success is due to a change to the way he thinks on the mound.
"It's just a matter of trust and belief in what I can do on the mound," he told the Toronto Sun. "I'm able to attack hitters now because I have confidence in it.
"Earlier in the season I was walking a lot of guys. But for the most part (now), I'm able to throw strikes and force the hitters to make a good hit."
Another reason for Tallet's success is the fact he now knows what his role is with the club, allowing him to better prepare for when he may enter a game.
"My role is to try and bridge the game into the later part of the innings, try to get the ball to our guys in the right situations," Tallet said.
Hawpe keeps it simple, finds success: Brad Hawpe knows that every Major League hitter will have ups and downs. He's more than happy to enjoy the hot streaks.
Hawpe was named the National League Player of the Week for May 28-June 3 after driving in eight runs and hitting .455 (10-for-22) with three home runs. He also scored eight runs, had a .571 on-base percentage and a .955 slugging percentage.
"I go through stretches where it's going good and where it's not going good, so when it's going good, I try not to overthink it," Hawpe told Rockies.com. "I try to stay there. I'm trying to look for pitches over the plate and trying to drive them."
May was quite a turnaround for Hawpe. Since May 1, he is hitting .347 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. Manager Clint Hurdle believes Hawpe has found success in part from the slugger being calmer with his swing.
"His leg kick isn't as violent," Hurdle said. "I think he's condensed it to a small degree. Maybe the average fan out there might not recognize it, but I think there has been some adjustments made. He's worked hard at it.
"But seeing the ball the way he is, it just comes from a comfort zone that he develops over time. And getting to that point where you say, 'Hey, I've got skills, and I'm not going to hurry this thing.' He's in a real good place offensively right now.
Okajima's adjusting to American baseball: Hideki Okajima has adjusted well to facing American League hitters, but the left-handed reliever for the Boston Red Sox is still trying to get used to playing baseball in America, which consists of longer road trips compared to Japan, where the longest trip may take three hours.
Even though Okajima has not pitched as much as he did in Japan, his arm doesn't feel as rested.
"I believe that everybody is tired around this time," Okajima told the Boston Globe. "I'm not overly tired. It's new to me to play 10 games in a row. In Japan, we usually get one day off a week, so it's a drastic difference that I'm trying to still adjust. New year, new team, new routine for me."
For the year, Okajima is 1-0 with a 1.27 ERA. In 28 1/3 innings, he has struck out 28 batters.
Pence has become Astros' catalyst: Houston Astros center fielder Hunter Pence can seemingly do no wrong. Already earning a National League Rookie of the Week honor, Pence was named the National League Rookie of the Month for May.
During the month, he hit .343 with 16 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs. Since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, Pence is hitting a league-leading .375 with five home runs, 11 doubles, three triples and he has an OPS of 1.028.
"We kept saying he's not the savior," Astros manager Phil Garner told Astros.com. "We just want him to go out and play, and that's what he's been doing. He's in a good hitting groove. He swings the bat, sees the ball and takes a good rip. His bat stays in the zone well and that's a good thing."
Pence hustles on the field at all times, sprinting out of the batter's box on anything he hits or running to and from his center field position. That hustle, and his hitting, has already made him a fan favorite among the Astros faithful and has rubbed off on his teammates.
"[His energy] definitely rubs off," Houston reliever Brad Lidge said of Pence. "It's hard to explain exactly how, but there's no doubt about it. He has so much energy -- sometimes it borders on out of control -- and it's a lot of fun for us to watch. Certainly some of the veterans can get tired as the season goes on, but every night he's something to watch."
Pence had an outstanding spring but was still sent to Round Rock to start the season. Now, the rookie is one the best hitters in the Houston lineup, hitting .436 with one home run and seven RBIs in his last 11 games.
"I feel like I'm one of the luckiest men in the world just to be here," Pence said. "For the fans to support me the way they do, it makes me so happy. It's been a dream come true and very exciting. It's been incredible."
Bailey ready for debut: Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey, until now a Minor League star that Reds fans have been anxiously waiting for, will make his Major League debut on Friday against the Cleveland Indians.
In 10 starts for Triple-A Louisville, Bailey is 6-1 with an ERA of 2.31.
"I think the biggest thing I've learned is what it takes to be consistent," Bailey told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I struggled with that my first year. But since the All-Star break last year, I've been able to stay consistent."
Part of being consistent is having a willingness to learn as you go.
"Definitely," Bailey said. "It's not something anyone can tell you. It's not something you can read in a book. You've got to do it. You've got to see what works for you."
Since the 2006 All-Star break, Bailey sports a 13-2 record with a 1.99 ERA between Double-A Chattanooga and Louisville. Originally scheduled to pitch for Louisville on Thursday, Bailey says he is not concerned about an extra day's rest.
"Not at all," he said. "You just have to adjust the way you prepare."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.