Alex Meyer was visibly nervous when he took the mound for the first time in a Twins uniform back in February. Despite his size and status, he had a right to be. When he got the invititation to attend Major League Spring Training, it was a second chance at a first impression.
"I'm doing everything I can to stick up here as long as I can, like anybody else," Meyer said early last month.
And the Twins? They made Meyer one of the first players cut from big league camp on March 10.
"If people say they don't think about it, they're lying. Everybody wants to break with the big club," Meyer told TwinCities.com shortly before being reassigned to Minor League camp. "[Twins officials] are the professionals in that respect; they know what they're doing."
Meyer will have to trust his new organization when it comes to the pace of his development this season. A 6-foot-9 right-hander (Randy Johnson was 6-foot-10, by comparison), Meyer came over in the November 2012 deal that sent center fielder Denard Span to Washington. Meyer, who instantly bumped Kyle Gibson down a peg and became the team's top pitching prospect, will make his Double-A debut this spring with New Britain.
But the Kentucky product's early cut from big league camp had less to do with his performance (he pitched in two games, striking out three and allowing one hit over five scoreless innings) and more with the Twins' hopes of fine-tuning his repertoire and top-line starter mentality.
"We need to stretch him out," general manager Terry Ryan told MLB.com. "He has to develop his changeup. He's a legitimate starting pitcher and we need to make sure his three-pitch mix -- which he has -- is polished up. I don't think anybody here was displeased with anything he did here, and not only physically but mentally. He's a good teammate, he's coachable, he's attentive."
Meyer, a 2011 first-round pick, will command plenty of attention, not just for his size but also his track record -- he combined for a 2.86 ERA and 139 strikeouts while walking 45 batters over 129 innings between Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac last season. He throws in the mid-90s and has a nasty, heavy sink to his pitches.
Yet all that couldn't stop the 23-year-old from being a little anxious on the mound in his first pitching session, especially after hearing from Ryan who he'd been traded for.
"I talked to Terry Ryan the day I got traded and I asked, 'Do you mind if I ask you who I got traded for and who is coming with me?'" Meyer told MLB.com. "And he just said, 'No one is coming with you and you were traded for Denard Span.' And I was kind of like, 'Wow.' Denard Span is a great player and is well-known. So it made me feel good that the Twins thought highly enough of me to trade him straight up for me."
Meyer will form a daunting duo with Trevor May, the Twins' No. 7 prospect who was also acquired over the winter in the deal that sent Ben Revere to Philadelphia. Alex Wimmers, the Twins' 2010 first-round pick out of Ohio State, should join the staff once he's healthy and Michael Tonkin, a 6-foot-7 reliever, will finally have someone to look up to in the clubhouse.
Meyer's height has raised some questions about his mechanics and control, but after a solid season at two levels in 2012, he believes he's only quieting the doubters.
"Last year, I made a really good stride with that," Meyer said. "When I got moved up, it was the best my command has ever been. So I just need to build on that."