Mark Reynolds becomes Yankees' latest No. 39
BOSTON -- When Mark Reynolds made his Yankees debut with a home run Friday night at Fenway Park, he became the 50th player to wear the team's uniform this season.
Reynolds also became the fifth player to wear uniform No. 39, following in the far-from-illustrious footsteps of David Adams, Chris Nelson, Corban Joseph and Brent Lillibridge.
"It's like the rotating number, I guess,'' Reynolds said before Saturday's game.
Usually, people ask, "What's in a name?'' For Reynolds, his arrival with the Yankees began with "What's in a number?''
Reynolds, released by the Indians before signing with the Yankees, is a devotee of uniform No. 12. That's what he wore in every one of his previous stops, including Cleveland, Baltimore and Arizona, although in his rookie year with the Diamondbacks, he had 27 for a while.
"Either one of those two would have been great,'' Reynolds said. "But I'm happy to have a jersey, man.''
Both 12 and 27 were taken when Reynolds showed up in Boston. Reliever Shawn Kelley wears 27 and No. 12 has been sported by two players this year -- first Vernon Wells and now Alfonso Soriano.
If you don't think a player places importance on the number on his back, consider that Soriano asked for and received 12 from Wells when the Yankees acquired him from the Cubs last month. Wells switched to 22.
"It's a number he's worn his entire career and deserves the right to finish in it,'' Wells said at the time, apparently unaware that Soriano wore Nos. 58, 53 and 33 with the Yankees beginning in 1999 before switching to 12 in 2002.
The way Soriano is hitting -- he was 13-for-18 with five homers and 18 RBIs in his previous four games before going 2-for-4 Saturday -- Reynolds said, "I'm not going to ask Sori to switch.''
Of course, the Yankees don't have as many numbers to choose from as other teams. They have 16 retired numbers, from Billy Martin's 1 to Ron Guidry's 49. Others aren't retired yet but are considered sacred, such of Joe Torre's 6, Jorge Posada's 20 and Bernie Williams' 51.
When Paul O'Neill's 21 was given out to pitcher LaTroy Hawkins in 2008, there was such an outcry by fans at Yankee Stadium that Hawkins gave up the number -- which he wore to honor Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente -- and switched to 22.
Hawkins, now with the Mets, wears No. 32, which has been his preferred number for most of his 19-year career. He couldn't wear it with the Yankees because it's retired for Elston Howard.
All of which makes the job of number-assigning difficult for equipment manager Rob Cucuzza. He has to factor in Yankees history, player preferences and possible fan outrage.
There is no illustrious history with No. 39. Darryl Strawberry wore it, as did Roberto Kelly, Joe Niekro and Ron Davis, among others. Clay Rapada had it in 2012. The first was catcher Rollie Hemsley in 1942.
This year, it has been the go-to number for just-passing-through infielders. Adams, Joseph and Lillibridge are all with Triple-A Scranton and Nelson is with the Angels and wearing No. 8.
Nelson hit two homers, including a grand slam, against the Yankees on Thursday, which led reliever Boone Logan to exclaim, "I let a guy like that hit a grand slam off me, it definitely isn't going to help the team out.''
That doesn't sound like a compliment to Nelson, a Yankee for 10 games in May. Truth is, Reynolds is the most accomplished of the 39s, with 197 homers going into Saturday, including the two-run shot Friday in his first at-bat as a Yankee.
Reynolds was without any uniform before the Yankees called. That's why he looked at the back of the uniform shirt hanging in his locker Saturday, pointed to the Major League Baseball insignia above the 39 and said, "As long as it has this little logo on it, I'm good.''