MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers knew they were getting a big bat when they signed Mark Reynolds to play first base, but it turns out they also made a significant upgrade in the field.
"It doesn't really surprise me after seeing him last year," said Lyle Overbay, a New York Yankees teammate in 2014 who followed Reynolds to Milwaukee over the winter.
But it is surprising some other observers less familiar with Reynolds' work because he played the past three seasons in the American League. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is among those who call Reynolds' defense better than expected.
"But I did hear through the grapevine when we first got him that he was pretty good," Roenicke said. "That he had good hands. He doesn't have great foot speed, but range-wise, he does a nice job.
"Our first basemen [Reynolds and Overbay] had been fabulous defensively so far. I can probably name you eight plays that we've made that we probably don't make last year."
Last year, after Corey Hart, Mat Gamel and Taylor Green all went down with season-ending injuries, Roenicke employed seven different first basemen, none of whom had ever before started a Major League game at that position. Four of them had never before played a professional inning there.
Reynolds came up as a third baseman, but he at least brought some experience at first. He's not surprised by his solid play there.
"This is pretty much how I've always played. It's just third base minus the throwing," Reynolds said. "You don't have to catch it cleanly and make a perfect throw. Sometimes you can just knock it down and get it to the pitcher or step on the bag. You have a bigger glove. There's a little more margin for error.
"And I've been working on it. In the past, I would take ground balls every day at third and at first. I was splitting my playing time a lot more. Now, being able to focus on first base had helped."