It’s an old show business axiom, I know, but it certainly applies to Twins pitching prospect Alex Meyer, as well. “Always leave ‘em wanting more.” Just give the crowd a little taste of what you’ve got, then leave them walking away and talking about how they can’t wait to come back the next time you’re in town.
Twins fans got a taste of Alex Meyer over the weekend and it certainly got folks buzzing. Meyer pitched three innings against the Pirates on Saturday. He faced just two hitters more than the minimum, giving up one hit and hitting a batter. He struck out three and walked nobody. His fastball was consistently clocked between 93 and 96 mph and touched 97 a couple of times. His breaking ball, a “knuckle-curve,” ran about 10 mph slower with good late break.
That’s the kind of stuff Twins fans (not to mention the team’s manager and pitching coach) have been looking for in a starting pitcher ever since Francisco Liriano’s elbow blew up.
Then, just like a Vaudeville veteran, Meyer walked off the stage and over to the minor league side of the Twins’ spring training camp, leaving fans to dream of what they might see when he finally arrives at The Show for real.
His timing… in combination with that of General Manager Terry Ryan, who no doubt made the decision to cut Meyer from the Major League camp on Sunday (before Gardy could see enough to start begging Ryan to let him keep the kid)… was perfect.
So by Monday morning, Meyer was on the back practice fields with his fellow minor league pitchers, working on the things that he’ll need to get right before he can even think of a Target Field debut. Things like pick-off moves and covering first base on a ground ball to his left. Those mundane “little things” that have to become instinctive before he’ll get a shot at a spot in the Twins’ rotation.
Alex Meyer never had a shot at opening the season in that Big League rotation. He was invited to the Twins’ Major League camp when pitchers and catchers reported primarily for one reason. As a newcomer, acquired from the Nationals for outfielder Denard Span, the Twins front office, manager and coaching staff wanted to get a first hand look at what they received in return for one of the best centerfielders in the league.
Now they’ve had that look.
You couldn’t blame Ron Gardenhire if he wanted a little longer look. His job is on the line this season and his future as the Twins manager is going to be determined, in large part, by whether or not his rotation is significantly improved over last year’s mess. From his perspective, if the 6’9″ Meyer is among the best five pitchers in camp at getting hitters out, he’d want him in a Twins uniform come April 1.
You also can’t blame Terry Ryan for taking a more conservative approach. Meyer is yet to pitch an inning above Advanced-Class A (with only has seven starts at that level) and it’s rare, to say the least, that a pitcher with so little professional experience is really ready to pitch successfully in the Major Leagues. And that’s part of Ryan’s job… to make sure that when the time comes for Meyer to take to the Target Field mound, he’s ready to be successful there.
Some projected that Meyer would open the season with the Advanced-A Fort Myers Miracle, given his limited time at that level last season in the Nationals organization. Barring some kind of regression over the next three weeks over on the minor league fields, it would seem likely he’ll get to open the season at AA New Britain.
If he’s as dominant there as his performance Saturday indicated he’s capable of being, he could find himself promoted sooner, rather than later. That’s a pretty big “if” considering much of this optimism is based on a few innings of work in spring training. Fans, as well as decision-makers in the organization, need to remember that it’s folly to get too excited over any player’s statistics even during an entire spring training, much less a few innings early on.
But for fans, that’s what spring training is for, right? To renew hope!
So it’s OK for us to dream of a scenario that sees Meyer promoted not just to Rochester by July, but all the way to the Twin Cities.
Just don’t expect Terry Ryan to be too anxious to allow that dream to become reality.