Mike Moustakas, one of the newest Cincinnati Reds, thought Wednesday was Christmas morning. He woke up and was turning double plays with Reds legend Barry Larkin at spring training.
“Growing up as a kid Barry was one of my favorite players,” Moustakas said. “I loved watching him play the game. I was turning double plays with Barry Larkin. I thought this is awesome. It is literally like a dream come true for me.
“To have his knowledge and his wisdom is incredible,” Moustakas added. “I can’t wait to go out there tomorrow.”
Moustakas, 31, signed a four-year,$64 million deal with the Reds in early December. A third baseman for the bulk of his career, he’s making the transition to second with the Reds, who have slugger Eugenio Suarez at third.
Moustakas’ journey to Reds camp this spring ran through Kansas City and Milwaukee. Moustakas was the Royals first-round pick in 2007. By 2011, he was in the big leagues, playing 89 games with the Royals. The next season Moustakas was the starting third baseman.
The Royals lost to San Francisco in the 2014 World Series but beat the New York Mets in 2015. Moustakas contributed a career-high .284 batting average, 22 home runs and 82 runs RBI, receiving votes for the American League MVP in 2015. He struggled in 2016 but was the comeback player of the year in 2017 when he hit a team-record 38 home runs.
Cincinnati teammates, including Joey Votto, hungry to play in the World Series wanted Moustakas’ take on the experience.
“Joey’s asked me about things that I’ve been through. It’s pretty cool when a guy like that, an MVP, asks you questions,” Moustakas said. “You play 162 games to get to the World Series but all that matters is winning that World Series trophy and bringing it back to Cincinnati. I’m learning from him every single day. This guy is one of the best hitters in baseball. “
This isn’t the first time Moustakas has changed teams or worked at second base.
“This is actually my first time coming to a new team,” he said. “In Milwaukee, I had (former Royals teammates) Lorenzo (Cain), (Jeremy) Jeffress,” Moustakas explained. “Here I didn’t have that. I started at Redsfest, getting to know these guys. Everything you read about and hear is true. You see how much of a family they provide here.”
Moustakas played third base with the exception of four games at first base, in 8 ½ seasons with Kansas City. The Brewers worked with him last spring to learn second base. He appeared in 47 games at second and 105 at third base.
Reds’ manager David Bell, a former third baseman, believes Moustakas will make a smooth transition to playing second every day.
“If you can play third base, you can play the other infield positions,” Bell said. “When he his footwork down, he’ll be fine. Mike was a good player on some good teams. We want him to be comfortable. He can help us in so many ways with his experiences.”
Moustakas saw a potential winner in Cincinnati.
“When I signed, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” Moustakas said. “I knew what they had here in place. I wanted to be a part of what they were building. I thought if they are done, this is a pretty good team. Then you add Shogo (Akiyama), Nick (Castellanos). Now we’re a legit contender. If we keep our head down and keep grinding, we will be right where we need to be in September.”
Moustakas was a National League All-Star last season, his third appearance. He hit 30 doubles and 35 home runs for the Brewers. Great American Ball Park’s short right field is built for left-handed batters like him.
“I hit some home runs last year,” Moustakas said. “With the depth in our lineup, we don’t have to worry about doing too much. With our pitching staff and our bullpen, if we can get up in the sixth or seventh inning, good luck man. I love our staff and I’m glad I don’t have to face these guys.”