Whether it was his college experience or the advice he's received from pros that put him at ease, Alex Meyer said he wasn't nervous in his Minor League debut on Saturday. And the results certainly back him up.
The Nationals' No. 3 prospect allowed two hits over five shutout innings to get the win as the Class A Hagerstown Suns egded the West Virginia Power, 4-3.
Meyer struck out four without issuing a walk.
"I was talking to my mom and dad before the game and they asked, 'Are you nervous?'" the 22-year-old right-hander said. "I told them I really wasn't. If I had signed out of high school, maybe I would've been. There was a lot of excitement, but I don't really think it was nerves. The anticipation was building up -- I was extremely happy to get out there."
Selected with the 23rd overall pick in last year's Draft, Meyer (1-0) retired the first four batters before yielding a single to Jose Osuna. The only other baserunner he allowed came an inning later, when Junior Sosa sent a ground-ball single through the right side with one out.
"I had command of all three pitches," Meyer said. "I think the biggest thing was I was able to work inside, which, in college, I didn't necessarily do the best job of. In pro ball, they've been harping on me that you have to throw inside to get batters out and go deeper into games. It was one of those nights where everything felt good out there."
Relievers Bobby Lucas and Alex Kreis combined to allow two runs in two innings following Meyer, but Aaron Barrett tossed two hitless frames to close the door and earn his first save. Matthew Skole led the Suns' offense by going 3-for-4 with his fifth RBI in the season's first three games.
Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 20th round of the 2008 Draft, Meyer considered going straight to the pros but ended up enrolling at the University of Kentucky. Neither he nor his family believed he was ready for pro ball coming out of high school.
"Mainly at that point in time, it was in my parents' hands more than anything," Meyer said. "I wasn't ready. As an 18-year-old, I feel like it'd be so hard to come out and be successful. I definitely had interest, but my parents were looking out for my best interests and I wasn't ready. It made it an easy decision for them."
Meyer's best year at Kentucky was his junior season, when he went 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA in 101 innings. In addition to the knowledge he gained from his coaches there, he said he continues to learn from fellow Kentucky products. He regularly speaks to pitchers Chris Rusin, who plays in the Cubs organization, and James Paxton, the Mariners' No. 5 prospect.
"Those guys, I call them all the time asking how the pro game is different," Meyer said. "I really just sit there and try to pick their brains a bit. Those guys are obviously successful. I was around some pretty good pitchers and they've really helped me a lot."
Standing 6-foot-9, Meyer had some trouble with walks in college. It also did not help that he kept growing -- he gained two inches between his freshman and junior seasons -- which prevented him from developing his mechanics as well as he would have liked.
"I struggled with [the mechanics at my height], but it's something I've definitely gotten better at and it's helping me out now," Meyer said. "I'm doing a heck of a lot better than I was in college, but it took time. Finally, I quit growing and I think that had a good piece to do with it."
Meyer said his main goal for this year is to get innings under his belt. He pitched 110 2/3 frames in his first two years at Kentucky, then tossed 101 in his final season there.
"I want to get 140, 150 innings, whatever the Nationals hope for me to get to," Meyer said. "Get better every day as a pitcher, learn more about the pro game and keep adjusting every day."