D-backs manager Torey Lovullo made it clear what his message was to Josh VanMeter when the 26-year-old infielder was optioned to Triple-A Reno following Saturday’s game.
“Go down there, get those consistent reps, get back to what you know and we will see you soon,” Lovullo told VanMeter.
Over the first nearly two months of the season, VanMeter wasn’t getting consistent opportunities at the big league level. He was batting .159/.280/.261 with one homer and seven RBIs in 37 games. VanMeter made 16 starts at second base, but he also frequently served as a pinch-hitter, going 2-for-18 in that role.
VanMeter will now get more playing time at Reno, where he’ll look to get going after his slow start.
“The role he was in was challenging, I know. It might be one of the hardest roles in the game,” Lovullo said. “Unfortunately, he hasn’t had consistent at-bats in over a year. … To get four or five at-bats a night, to get three or four hits a night, that’s a good feeling, and I know everybody’s looking for that. And I felt like this was going to be the best opportunity for him to go down and get back to that level of excellence that’s inside of him.”
VanMeter has struggled to get in a rhythm since arriving in Arizona at the 2020 Trade Deadline in the deal that sent right-hander Archie Bradley to Cincinnati. Last year, VanMeter batted .194/.293/.333 with one homer and five RBIs in 12 games after joining the D-backs.
In Spring Training, VanMeter batted .231/.317/.365 with two homers and nine RBIs in 23 games. He made the team in a bench role, but he only received 69 at-bats in his first 37 games this season.
Arizona needed to clear a roster spot to make room for right-hander Taylor Widener, who was activated from the injured list to start Sunday’s series finale at Colorado after missing a month due to a right groin strain. However, Widener departed in the second inning with right groin discomfort.
There was already some uncertainty regarding the D-backs’ upcoming rotation plans. Madison Bumgarner and Merrill Kelly have spots, as well as Widener, if he stays healthy. Then, there would be two spots available for a group that includes Corbin Martin, Riley Smith, Seth Frankoff and Matt Peacock, all of whom have made at least one start in the past two weeks.
The D-backs currently have 14 pitchers and 12 position players on their active roster. But that split could change soon, especially with catcher Carson Kelly likely returning from the IL this week.
“My preference is to have that fifth guy on the bench. My preference is to have a balance of 13 and 13,” Lovullo said. “But sometimes, there are extenuating circumstances, and this is one of them. We’ve been trying to protect our pitchers, knowing that there were some big asks over these past  days without a day off, and we’ll get through that and we’ll start to make some adjustments.”