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Glendale notes: Meadows remains tough

No. 2 Pirates prospect challenged to stay mentally, physically ready
November 3, 2015

It doesn't take long for Austin Meadows to name his best memory of the season.

"What popped up in my head first was in Altoona, in the playoffs, our opening game against Bowie when we came back," the Pirates outfield prospect said. "We were down by a lot."

On a warm early September night, Meadows hit a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning that day after Barrett Barnes ignited a postseason comeback with a grand slam. It was a big week for Meadows, who'd just been promoted to Double-A and found out he'd been invited to the Arizona Fall League.

Now just about two months later, he's still looking to add to the memory bank. The Bucs' No. 2 prospect has transitioned from the postseason pressure of the Eastern League to sunny laid-back afternoons in Arizona. He's appeared in 10 games so far with Glendale, after hitting .310 across two levels in the Minors this year.

"We came back and won that game, it was really a pretty memorable moment," he said of the Altoona comeback. "That was a lot of fun."

Pittsburgh's first-round pick in the 2013 Draft spent most of the past season in Florida with Class A Advanced Bradenton before joining Altoona in September. He finished the year at .310 with seven homers, 54 RBIs, 21 steals, a .360 on-base percentage and a pair of All-Star selections. Now in Glendale, he's playing alongside No. 6 Pirates prospect Reese McGuire with the Desert Dogs.

"It's been good, it's a bunch of good guys, some of the best talent in the country," Meadows said. "It's a lot of fun, picking up on certain things. I'm really enjoying my time out here, learning some things and just playing baseball."

The "just playing" aspect is easier said than done. Spring Training started nine months ago, and with the extra AFL duty, 2015 marks the longest season of the Atlanta native's life.

"I'd be lying if I said we all weren't physically tired, but that's just the mental part of the grind, getting through this and the Fall League as well," he said. "It's just part of the game. I feel like you have to learn to be mentally and physically tough to get through it. And it's good to have teammates who come together, so it's been fun."

Meadows isn't complaining about the extended playing time -- he was limited to just 46 games in 2014 due to a hamstring injury in Spring Training, so now with a full season under his belt, he's learning what it takes to stay healthy and prepared deep into the fall.

"I've just come out here and kept playing my game, doing what I'd been doing the whole year," the 20-year-old said. "Stay consistent ... stay healthy and get my body used to the physical grind of a long season."

In terms of fall memories, Meadows said having his family come visit from Georgia has been a highlight. He's also enjoyed following the World Series with teammates from the White Sox, Astros, Dodgers and Phillies.

"It's been awesome, especially the Royals and the Mets, their pitching is unbelievable," he said. "To see them all together is something special."

Meadows' Twitter feed also tells the story of a more relaxed environment in Arizona. He saw Garth Brooks last week, binge-watched The Blacklist on Netflix, enjoyed a trip to Whataburger and caught up on college football.

"You get some down time here and we get some days off, so it's been nice," he said. "I went to an Arizona Cardinals game, their stadium is next to where we're staying. So there's a lot to do out here. I'm really enjoying it and my family has been able to come out as well, so it's been a fun time."

On the field, Meadows is 6-for-41 with three extra-base hits, six RBIs and a homer in 10 games. He's already planned out the rest of his winter once the AFL wraps up this month.

"I'll take a couple weeks off, get my legs back under me, start working out, starting hitting after that," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. I learned a lot last offseason off the field, so that's been an important part of my career." 

In brief

Plate production: It doesn't seem to matter who Glendale runs out behind the dish this season. Andrew Knapp, a switch-hitting Phillies prospect, has a team-leading eight RBIs in eight games for the Dogs, while fellow backstop Kyle Farmer (Dodgers) has a homer and seven RBIs in 10 starts. McGuire, the Pirates' No. 6 prospect, is hitting .333 with five RBIs in seven games.

Cotton connection: Glendale somehow wound up with the only two guys in baseball named Cotton. Jharel Cotton, a 23-year-old Dodgers right-hander, leads the Desert Dogs with nine strikeouts and sports a 2.35 ERA in 7 2/3 innings over three starts. Spinning his own nice stats from the bullpen is Chris Cotton -- no relation -- a 24-year-old Astros lefty who has struck out eight while garnering a 1.59 ERA in six relief appearances. For the record, Jharel's brother, Jamaine Cotton, spent five seasons in the Minors with the Astros from 2010-14, but was released in April.

Engel's resurgence: Adam Engel (White Sox) is doing just about everything for Glendale after hitting .251 in the Class A Advanced Carolina League this past summer. In Arizona, he leads the Dogs in hits (15), runs (nine), at-bats (41), doubles (six), total bases (21), walks (nine) and stolen bases (six) in 12 games.

Danny Wild is an editor for Follow his MLBlog column, Minoring in Twitter.