PHOENIX -- Ever since his strikeout rate reached a crisis point in St. Petersburg during the D-backs' last road trip, third baseman Mark Reynolds has developed a new pregame routine with hitting coach Jack Howell.
"Me and Jack have been in the cage every day since Tampa just working on staying short with my swing path," Reynolds said. "It's really helping out. It allows me to get to some pitches that I may normally not get to. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to stay consistent."
The numbers show the improvement. Since making the adjustments in his swing, Reynolds has hit .333 (8-for-24) with two homers, six RBIs and a 1.115 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
As for the strikeouts, they're still there, but not at the record pace. He's fanned six times while drawing five walks.
"The way my at-bats were going before, I had to make a change," Reynolds said.
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson pointed to two recent at-bats as signs of improvement. The first was an 0-2 homer he hit off a Jonathan Broxton slider on July 3.
"I was able to stay inside it and put a good swing on it," Reynolds said. "Normally I might either swing through it or roll over it."
The other at-bat came in the third inning Monday against the Cubs when Reynolds fell behind 0-2, but managed to extend the at-bat to eight pitches before hitting the ball hard. Unfortunately for him it was right at the shortstop for a double play.
"He wasn't rewarded for everything he did, but that doesn't mean he should abandon that," Gibson said. "Today he went through the same routine again."
Qualls' confidence becoming apparent
PHOENIX -- Kirk Gibson is not ready to say just exactly who his closer is.
"If I told you," he said with a smile to a group of reporters Tuesday, "You guys would hold me to it."
One thing the D-backs' interim manager does know is how well Chad Qualls has pitched of late. In his last four outings, the right-hander has allowed two hits in four scoreless innings.
"[Monday] night, what I saw was a much more confident Chad Qualls," Gibson said. "I think we've got him on the right track."
It seems Qualls may have gotten away from throwing his signature sinking fastball and mixed in too many of his other pitches.
"That pitch is in your pocket, just trust it," Gibson said he told Qualls about his sinker. "You don't have to trick them. You've got a great sinker, throw it and we'll defend it."
While he would like to have more defined roles in his bullpen, Gibson is not in a hurry to make any pronouncements.
"We're just not there yet," he said. "And frankly they've got to earn that."
Trade rumors nothing new for Haren
PHOENIX -- Dan Haren has been dealt twice in his career, so he knows how to deal with the inevitable trade rumors that swirl this time of year.
"I'm not asking for a trade or anything," Haren said. "I don't really read too much into all the stuff that people write. 99.9 percent of the time it's just rumors and there's nothing to it, so there's no need to waste your time with it. Your name comes up if you're good, and I've been fortunate to have a good career to this point. I try not to think too much into it and just go about my business."
It is unlikely the D-backs will trade their ace unless they are overwhelmed with an offer that would help them restock the upper reaches of their farm system.
Haren, who makes $8.25 million this year, will earn $12.75 million in 2012, and the club holds a $15.5 million option for 2013, with a $3.5 million buyout.
Haren was asked Tuesday if he would be surprised to find himself still with the D-backs next month.
"I haven't really thought about that," he said. "I don't think I would necessarily be surprised. I would like to think I'm part of the solution and not the problem, but then again I came here in [December] 2007 to put us over the top, and besides a good month we had in 2008, it really hasn't worked out that way. I don't know, maybe I am part of the problem."
The D-backs spent time Tuesday before batting practice working on their bunt defenses. "We were in St. Louis the other day and lost a game, really, on a bunt situation, so just want to revisit that," interim manager Kirk Gibson said. ... Speaking of extra work, the D-backs will get some in when they hold a two-hour workout in San Diego the night before the second half opens against the Padres. "We'll revisit everything at that time," Gibson said. "We'll have a good workout and hopefully be able to utilize this in competition." ... Justin Upton broke an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the fourth inning of Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Cubs. ... Kelly Johnson homered in the sixth, his first home run since June 8, a span of 90 at-bats.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.