Reeves using step back to move forward

 * C Mike Reeves has been taking advantage of everyday at-bats with the Lansing Lugnuts since being transferred there from Dunedin in June. The 23-year-old says his focus is simple: get better every day. (Photo: Eddie Michels). .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in college summer ball …. Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent

By Alexis Brudnicki

Lansing, MI – It got to the point this season when Mike Reeves didn’t know what to do.

He was in a situation that he'd never experienced before in Dunedin, taking on a bench role as the Blue Jays' backup catcher. Used to playing every day throughout his time at Florida Gulf Coast University and in his first professional season last year with the Vancouver Canadians, the 23-year-old was lost.

“It was tough because that was the first time I’ve had to do that in my career,” Reeves said. “[Dunedin hitting coach] Stubby [Clapp] kept telling me, ‘Just relax, this is how it’s supposed to be, you’re not going to feel like you’re at 100 per cent all the time,’ but as the season went on and the less and less at-bats I got, it got tougher.”

Clapp, a former Team Canada legend, tried to reassure the young backstop that he was doing everything right, and that his numbers – albeit unflattering – were where they needed to be. He tried to help Reeves take off some of the pressure he was putting on himself, but the message was difficult to comprehend for the catcher.

“That was first time going through it and I had never hit like that,” Reeves said. “Obviously, I hit the panic button and that’s why I was in the cage so much, but it’s always tough…

“I would go to the cage for like three hours a day and just hack away, which is probably detrimental. It was working against me. Next time, if I’m in that situation again, I’m probably going to go to the cage and take 10 or 15 swings and just cut it out.

“[Roving hitting instructor Steve] Springer always talks about not looking at the numbers and hitting the ball hard. But it gets to a point where you’re thinking, 'man, I only play once every three to six days.' You get caught up in that and that’s probably why the numbers weren’t great.”

Though the Peterborough, Ont., native’s offence suffered because of all the work he was putting in, even requesting Clapp’s presence at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on off days to work with him further, Reeves believes his situation in Dunedin helped his game behind the plate.

“I’d show up early [to hit], but catching-wise I think I got better,” he said. “There was a good thing there because I was catching all the bullpens and I was really able to focus and work that way. I was working on my transfer throws to second and I was able to do that a lot and focus on that.

“You can never do too much defence. You can work, work, work, and your defence is going to get better. Swinging is more timing and where your hands are at. Baseball is a funny sport how it works like that.”

Also detrimental to his Florida State League performance was the amount of added pressure Reeves put on himself in every at-bat and each swing, not knowing how important it may be in the scheme of things or when he might get another chance to redeem himself, if necessary.

“That was another big thing that happened,” he said. “When I was up there I wasn’t sure when I was going to play next, so I always wanted to do my best, and when you press too hard sometimes it goes the other way.”

In the middle of June, the Toronto Blue Jays organization transferred Reeves from the Dunedin roster to that of its Midwest League affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts. It was a step down the ladder, but one the catcher missed on his way to Dunedin. It hasn’t been so bad.

“Last year my goal was to be here this year, so it’s not like I’m really off track,” Reeves said. “Hopefully I finish this year off strong and end up in Dunedin next year…[Playing in] Lansing helps a lot. Just getting my timing back and getting to see live pitching, it’s huge…

“I like the environment a lot here. A lot of these guys are from last year in Vancouver [with the Canadians] and we had a great atmosphere there. [Manager John Tamargo] and [hitting coach Ken] Huckaby and Vince [Horsman, pitching coach] are all great guys too. They really care about the development of players.”

The beginning of this season was a period of adjusting and learning for Reeves, and for that he is grateful.

“I’m taking it like a heads up for the future,” Reeves said. “I’m back to where I should have been and now I’ve just got one step up…I was kind of relieved [to come here] because I would get to play more, so that’s good. Obviously it’s a step back and you want to move forward, but this is probably best for me right now.”

He knows what he needs to work on, and for now he’s doing it with the Lugnuts.

“My expectation each day coming into pro ball is to get better and better and hopefully by the end I’ll be in the big leagues,” Reeves said. “I have no expectations, I haven’t set any goals like I have to hit .300 or anything because those are goals that are out of my control. What I can control is I can get better every day.”

-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis