For Alex Meyer, his Major League debut probably feels long overdue. This is the kid who, at 23, lost a little bit of time to injury but otherwise torched Double-A hitters by striking out 84 in 70 innings. In seven Arizona Fall League starts that autumn, against opponents of a higher quality top-to-bottom than he'd seen in Double-A, he managed a 3.12 ERA and barely allowed a base runner per inning. At that point, appearing with the Twins at some point in 2014 almost felt like a foregone conclusion. Maybe, just maybe, he might even make a play for a rotation spot out of spring training?
That didn't happen, but sure enough Meyer came out of the gate firing on all cylinders in his Triple-A debut. He struck out 11 batters in an early season start, prompting rehabbing Major Leaguer Will Middlebrooks to wonder how he was still in the minor leagues.
Will Middlebrooks on Alex Meyer: "I asked a coach, 'Who'd he make mad? Why is he here? Are there five guys better than him in Minnesota?'"— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) April 24, 2014
Meyer would strike out 11 in his next outing, too. It prompted me to wonder when he'd be called up, because Middlebrooks was right: the way Meyer was pitching, no way in hell were there five starters who were better anywhere in the organization, much less Minnesota.
The front office dragged their feet, rightly or wrongly. It reminds me of the Miguel Sano situation in some respects: absolutely the player could help the Major League team be better right away, but is a promotion now the best thing for the player? As far as Meyer went in 2014, the Twins obviously didn't think he was ready. By the time they may have considered it, shoulder inflammation put him on the disabled list. He'd finish the season there, having given Rochester 27 starts of 3.52-ERA baseball. He struck out an impressive 153 in 130.1 innings, but let's call a spade a spade: 130 innings in 27 starts isn't very good.
Mechanical and command issues aside, many fans (and journalists) believed that Meyer had earned a promotion sometime last year. He probably felt that way, too. His next big opportunity came in spring training this year, but the Twins - quite predictably - chose to deal with their depth at starting pitcher in the most pragmatic way possible: keep the guys you need to, option the guys you can option, stash one in the bullpen.
Now he finally gets his opportunity, although it's coming in a role that few people would have guessed or preferred. It's ideal timing in some ways. There isn't a great deal of confidence in at least half of the arms in the bullpen, and there isn't one particularly capable strikeout pitcher in the group. Since his move to the bullpen, Meyer has allowed one earned run in 17 innings and has more or less dominated the way he can dominate when he isn't having debilitating command issues.
Pitchers only have so many pitches in their arm. Training, wear and tear, workload; these things will all have an impact on the length of his career, but ultimately there will come a point where the arm just won't work anymore. A pitcher's Major League career does not extend proportionally with how long he's been in the minors. In that sense, now is very much the time to bring Meyer into the fold, get him some experience, and make the team better. At 25, Meyer's bullets need to be spent at the big league level, not down on the farm.
With a mid to upper-90s fastball and a "wipeout" slider (honestly that's the best adjective I've ever heard applied to a pitch), Meyer's stuff, velocity, and two plus pitches put him in a position to be a dominating bullpen arm from his very first pitch. I expect we'll see him once or twice this weekend, and I couldn't be more excited.