Meneses nears conclusion of first full season on a high note

September 13th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- At this point last year, was in the final weeks of a whirlwind rookie season that saw him burst onto the Major League scene at age 30 with a flurry of home runs and power hitting.

With 16 games remaining in the regular season, Meneses is nearing the conclusion of his first full year in the Majors. He views it as time to continue improving before the offseason.

“I think everyone in general wants to finish with good numbers,” Meneses said. “We play to hopefully have great numbers at the end of the year; I’m not happy with mine, because we’re playing for next season as well. I’m just going to keep battling … until the last game of the season and see where we’re at.”

Meneses went 2-for-4 with a double in the Nationals’ 5-1 loss to the Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park. It was his first double since Aug. 28 and first multihit game since Aug. 30, both at Toronto.

“We’ve got to get him to understand he’s got to stay in his legs a little bit,” said manager Dave Martinez. “But I thought he hit the ball well today.”

Meneses is batting .278 with 11 home runs across 137 games in his first full season in the Majors, compared to hitting .324 with 13 homers in 56 games as a rookie. The 31-year-old designated hitter has noticed a trend in his at-bats.

“I’ve been having a problem with jumping a little bit, lunging with my at-bats,” he said.

Meneses has addressed this during pregame work in the cage and during batting practice. The focus: stay more on his back leg -- the stronger leg.

“Unfortunately, you can work on it a lot, but a lot of times it doesn’t translate into the games and we have different habits in the game,” he said.

A complete regular season is a long stretch of ups, downs and adjustments. Meneses has improved his production with runners in scoring position, batting .360 this season compared to .220 last year. He also has collected 33 doubles compared to 14 in 2022.

“I just want him to continue to hit the ball hard and drive in runs for us,” said Martinez. “He’s really done well driving in some runs for us. So just continue to do that -- don’t worry about the home runs, stay in the middle of the field. Yesterday, you watched him hit a ball to right field, drive in a big run for us. He’s just got to understand to stay in the middle of the field. That other stuff, we’ll work on over the winter time.”

Just as Meneses learned about playing in the big leagues last year, learning about the grind of producing in a 162-game calendar is a new lesson he learned this season.

“It’s experience you gain with battling the whole season,” Meneses said. “There’s a lot of pressure. … You want to keep playing well, and sometimes the results aren’t there so it gets to you a little bit. The pressure’s different. It’s not easy. It’s definitely not easy to deal with it, especially when you have certain expectations. But it definitely has been a learning experience for me.”