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A 'sigh of relief' for VanMeter to snap skid

@m_sheldon
August 13, 2020

CINCINNATI -- When Josh VanMeter snapped an 0-for-16 skid to open 2020 with a pinch-hit seventh-inning home run in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Royals, the utility infielder knew he got all of it, but he wanted to check the telemetry anyway. Statcast showed the ball left VanMeter’s bat at

CINCINNATI -- When Josh VanMeter snapped an 0-for-16 skid to open 2020 with a pinch-hit seventh-inning home run in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Royals, the utility infielder knew he got all of it, but he wanted to check the telemetry anyway.

Statcast showed the ball left VanMeter’s bat at 108.5 mph.

“I always check the exit velocity after I hit a ball, because I really believe in exit velocity,” VanMeter said. “I think it’s kind of like the true number on a good hitter. Good hitters hit the ball hard consistently. I saw it was like 108 or 109, and I was like, ‘Dang, I think that’s the hardest ball I’ve ever hit.’ It was good. I know it’s not the furthest I’ve ever hit, but it’s definitely the hardest I’ve hit.”

More important to VanMeter and the Reds was that he finally broke through after a discouraging start to the season. He made the Opening Day roster, but he was optioned to the alternate training site at Prasco Park last Thursday, when he was 0-for-14.

“I think you saw it on my face as I crossed home plate, kind of a big sigh of relief,” VanMeter said. “I kind of had that feeling last year, too. It’s always good to get the first one out of the way. I think with it being a 60-game season and starting off on an 0-for-16 skid, it’s kind of amplified. If that would’ve happened 100 at-bats in, I don’t think it would’ve been as big of a deal, but it happened from the get-go.”

VanMeter, who started at second base vs. the Pirates on Thursday, used the time at Prasco Park to clear his mind and refocus.

“I think it was more of a mental thing than anything, honestly,” VanMeter said. “I think it’s always a humbling experience, getting sent down. Obviously, you never want it to happen, but it’s kind of a part of the situation that I’m in, still having options and stuff like that. Obviously, went down there and just got my work in. I was able to get like 15 at-bats in four days, so that was really good to see live pitching on a consistent basis.

“I think the last couple of nights, I’ve just kind of gone into the box and not really thought about anything but just going out there and competing, knowing that I can hit at this level, and just kind of let the game come to me.”

VanMeter knew he was on to something on Tuesday vs. Kansas City, when he hit a ball to the warning track in his second at-bat of the game in the eighth inning.

“I knew I struck out in my first at-bat, but I felt like I had a really good at-bat,” VanMeter said. “I felt like I put some good swings on the ball. Then, my second at-bat that night, I just missed a homer to right-center. The second AB [that] night, it’s kind of like that vote of confidence, that monkey off your back, and then you just can go in there and compete.”

Akiyama keeps working
It was encouraging for left fielder Shogo Akiyama to reach base three times Wednesday, with a single and two walks. Akiyama is feeling more comfortable facing Major League pitchers, but he still thinks he has a way to go.

“I know even every single at-bat, I’ve been trying to work out, and even if they become outs, I’ve been able to produce results better than before,” Akiyama said via an interpreter. “But at the level I’m producing right now, it’s not enough to be hitting leadoff, so I just need to work even harder.”

Moustakas update
Injured Reds second baseman Mike Moustakas (bruised right quadriceps) was scheduled to be on the field for Thursday’s batting practice. Moustakas is eligible to be activated from the 10-day injured list on Sunday.

“He is definitely making a lot of progress, healing, adding in a lot each day, progressing right on track,” manager David Bell said. “We don't have a date for when he's going to come back, but the way things are progressing, I would say it would be on the day he's eligible, or shortly after that.”

Facing Hunter Greene
One of the pitchers who VanMeter took at-bats against at Prasco Park was Hunter Greene, the Reds' No. 2 prospect and the No. 56 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline. Greene last pitched competitively in July 2018, for Class A Dayton before needing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and missing all of the ’19 season.

“I think it’s a really good experience for him,” VanMeter said. “He’s facing a lot of big league hitters over there. There are quite a few big league hitters over there. He may run into some struggles, but I think that’s good for every young player. I think it’s good to get those struggles out of the way and kind of learn who you are as a pitcher. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an electric arm. There is a reason he was drafted where he was. He’s a good kid, and he’s always wanting to get better. I think it’s just reps for him.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.