MLB: Hawkins comes to aid of Twins' Meyer
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It didn't take long for Twins reliever Alex Meyer to benefit from the addition of LaTroy Hawkins as a spring instructor.During a bullpen session early in camp, Hawkins noticed a mechanical flaw that Meyer is working hard to correct.
SARASOTA, Fla. - It didn’t take long for Twins reliever Alex Meyer to benefit from the addition of LaTroy Hawkins as a spring instructor.
During a bullpen session early in camp, Hawkins noticed a mechanical flaw that Meyer is working hard to correct.
“He told me, ‘Hey, man, your lower half is quick. Your upper body needs to be quick too or you’re not going to be in sync,’ ” Meyer recalled.
In live batting practice, Meyer asked Double-A pitching coach Ivan Arteaga to pay close attention to his delivery, which is limited entirely to the stretch position.
“I’ve heard really good things about Ivan; I’ve heard he’s one of the best guys in the organization to work with,” Meyer said. “He just told me some things, what he thought. It was awesome working with him.”
Now 26 with just a week (and two poor outings) under his belt in the majors, Meyer knows it’s time to build some career momentum. The quality of his pitches has never been at issue; instead, it’s more about approach and the ability for the 6-foot-9 pitcher to repeat his delivery.
“The biggest thing for me is going to be keeping my arm slot up to where it was in 2014, when I was throwing the ball as well as I ever had,” Meyer said. “That’s something I struggled with a lot last year, to a point where I was almost throwing sidearm. I’m just trying to get everything working on the same page, and that will help me keep driving everything in a straight line toward home plate instead of falling off toward the first-base side.”
Meyer traveled with the Twins for Monday’s spring game against the Baltimore Orioles but did not play. He is scheduled for an inning of work during Tuesday’s split-squad games.
“If I can do that stuff, I feel pretty confident I can get back on track and back to where I want to be,” he said. “We’ll just put the gas down and keep moving forward.”
At times Meyer has seemed distracted by the need to hold base runners, which can lead to command issues. Might it help if the Twins just told him not to worry so much about controlling the running game?
“No, I’ve got to quit walking guys before they can tell me to quit worrying about runners,” he said with a smile. “I want to say I’m usually pretty quick (to the plate) but sometimes too quick to where my lower half is going already. Right now I’m just focusing on staying under control and driving toward the plate. Just got to keep it going and we’ll be good.”
The Twins have been waiting for Meyer to have a breakthrough season ever since they traded starting center fielder Denard Span to the Washington Nationals for him - straight up - after the 2012 season. A former first-round draft pick and University of Kentucky standout, Meyer reached the majors late last June, but he couldn’t command his fastball in appearances at Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
Despite the progress he has made with his change-up, the Twins will keep him in the bullpen this spring, where there is more opportunity. Should Meyer get sent back to Triple-A Rochester again, he could land back in the starting rotation, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said.
Then again, the simplest approach might just be to keep Meyer in the bullpen.
“From my conversations with (pitching coach Neil Allen) and other people that saw him last year, they think this is where he’s best suited,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Come into a season in the bullpen from the start and see if he can respond to that. He doesn’t have to worry about the transition. We’ll have to see how it goes.”
Meyer didn’t move to the Red Wings bullpen until last May, and that was viewed as a last resort. He took to it so well, he was in the majors about five weeks later.
Hoping to “get the most out of what he can do,” Molitor said, the Twins have kept Meyer in the bullpen for now.
“We tried him as a starter,” he said. “You wanted to see if that was going to take root. It was kind of hit and miss.”
Still armed with a high-90s fastball and the ability to dominate hitters, Meyer has dropped to No. 13 on the Twins’ prospect ranking, according to Baseball America, after spending the previous three winters in their top five.
Now all the early-camp buzz is about the likes of hard throwers Nick Burdi, J.T. Chargois, Jake Reed and Mason Melotakis. Has Meyer, even with his power forward’s frame, somehow become easy to overlook?
“When we talked about the arms that are coming, he was in that conversation probably more than most of those guys a couple years ago,” Molitor said. “But those guys have matured and gained experience, so now it’s more about the guys we haven’t brought up yet.”