CINCINNATI -- For all the excitement and expectations surrounding his Major League debut, nerves haven't been an issue for Austin Meadows. Neither has big league pitching.
Meadows went 5-for-11 in his first three big league games against the Padres after being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. He hit his first career home run on Sunday, and it might have been his third if not for the wicked wind along the Allegheny River on the night of his debut. According to Statcast™, nine of the 14 balls he has put in play since Friday classify as "hard-hit," with an exit velocity over 95 mph.
Meadows stayed hot in Tuesday's series-opening 7-2 loss against the Reds, slugging his second homer in the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park. Meadows has now hit more home runs in four Major League games than he did over 32 games in Triple-A. On top of all that, the sweet-swinging lefty's second homer came off a tough left-handed pitcher in Reds reliever Amir Garrett.
"He's up there looking at pitches. He's taking aggressive swings," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Left on left off that guy, that's an impressive swing. I think we all like what we're seeing overall. It's been fun to watch him play."
He hasn't looked anxious, either. Why not? Two words: visualization and confidence.
The visualization took place over the course of years of anticipation. Since being drafted ninth overall in 2013, Meadows has mentally prepared himself for the day he would take the field at PNC Park. It finally came Friday, accompanied by a rush of interviews and early ovations, but he'd already played the moment out in his head.
"The visualization's one of the most important things, at least for me," Meadows said Sunday. "I've always dreamed of this day and I've always dreamed of myself in the box here putting together good at-bats. That's the main goal."
Meadows' confidence developed in Triple-A. After an uneven start to the season, he found a selectively aggressive approach that worked for him and yielded good results. He went on a tear before his callup, slashing .394/.412/.515 during a seven-game hitting streak. He also talked with Triple-A hitting coach Ryan Long about the importance of projecting that self-assurance.
"If you're struggling, go up there and make people think you're hitting good. That's the biggest thing, the confidence and showing you have the confidence up there," Meadows said. "Hanley Ramirez, you would never know if he was in a slump. You would think the guy's 3-for-3 and he could be 0-for-3. Just the way he goes about his business."
It's not imperative that a player is on a hot streak when the Pirates call him up. But if he is, Hurdle said, the key is keeping him in the lineup. Hurdle has done just that, starting Meadows in center field in each of his first four games.
"I've been a part of experience where players get called up, they're playing really well, then they just don't get an opportunity to play. That's hard," Hurdle said. "Sometimes, when there's a need, you just go grab the guy because you have confidence he can figure it out.
"His perspective is probably the most important. If he felt more confident walking in the door because of the surge, so be it. He hasn't backed off since he's been here."
Around the horn
• Closer Felipe Vazquez told Hurdle on Monday he was ready to pitch after rolling his right ankle during the ninth inning of Sunday's 8-5 loss to the Padres at PNC Park.
• The Pirates promoted relief prospect Jesus Liranzo from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. Pittsburgh claimed the 23-year-old Liranzo, a hard-throwing right-hander, off waivers from the Dodgers on April 5 and assigned him to Double-A, where he struck out 18 batters and posted a 0.83 WHIP over 12 scoreless innings.
• Indianapolis also activated infielder Max Moroff, who was optioned by the Pirates on Sunday, and released non-roster right-hander Tyler Jones.