Alex Meyer was unhittable in his eighth start Thursday, but he was also the first to lay down some criticism.
"It was good for us to get the win, but I wasn't too excited about the four walks," said Meyer, the Twins' top pitching prospect. "I walked a couple guys in the first inning, and that's never something you want to do."
But Meyer had some help. After working out of trouble in the first inning, he watched his teammates load the bases for Deibinson Romero, who crushed a grand slam to left off Tyler Cloyd in the bottom of the frame for a nice early cushion.
"It happens, but our team got me some runs in the first and that really signaled to me to pound the zone a bit better," Meyer said. "After that, my command was better earlier on. It was a good day."
The right-hander went on to throw five hitless innings for his second win as Triple-A Rochester beat the Columbus Clippers, 5-4, at Frontier Field. Meyer (2-1) struck out seven, walked four and threw 47 of his 79 pitches for strikes before handing the no-hitter off to his bullpen. Deolis Guerra came on and kept the hitless effort alive into the seventh, when Carlos Moncrief reached on a two-out infield single that glanced off the glove of first baseman Dan Rohlfing.
"You never want to be the guy where we score some runs and then you give them an opportunity to come back," Meyer said. "I told myself, 'Let's go, let's pound the zone, get the tempo going.' That definitely helped out."
He worked around a pair of walks in the first, striking out Giovanny Urshela and George Kottaras to end the threat, and walked another in the third following a 1-2-3 second. Kottaras got another free pass with one out in the fourth, but Meyer settled down, retiring the final five batters he faced.
Despite the result, the 6-foot-9 Kentucky product said lengthy at-bats are something he needs to avoid.
"Just being able to get ahead [is important], I've got to get strike one, it gets you a lot more confidence -- make them swing the bat," he said. "It allows me to attack hitters and use all my pitches."
Alex Meyer is 2-1 with a 3.79 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Rochester this year. (Bare Antolos/Rochester Red Wings)
Meyer's confidence has fluctuated in his first season at Triple-A as it's proven to be an up-and-down experience so far. He was winless until April 28, when he turned in the second of two consecutive 11-strikeout outings. The big right-hander struck out 22 batters over 12 2/3 innings in outings against Pawtucket and Charlotte on April 23 and 28, but regressed in his next two efforts.
"I want to be more consistent," he said. "The first two starts were good, the next wasn't. Then I had two good ones, and the last two hadn't been too good. I want to get it going, get the ball rolling a little here and continue to build off each start."
Ranked as the Twins' No. 3 prospect, Meyer is coming off a solid 2013 campaign in which he went 4-3 with a 2.99 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings, mostly with Double-A New Britain. Promoted this spring, he's now working on refining his approach against savvier hitters.
"I'm working on the changeup, working on being able to throw the changeup in fastball counts," he said. "I was able to do that, and that's good -- show something to get them off my fastball. So I've been working on that and the fastball command, it wasn't working but it did get better. Just things like that, being a little more consistent to get everything going and not wait until the second inning to get there."
Meyer said the no-hitter didn't even enter his mind Thursday, not after struggling with command at times.
"I wanted to have some quick innings, and some lasted too long," he said. "We've got a good bullpen, and when you turn the ball over, you know they'll be able to get things done."
Columbus made it a game with four runs in the eighth after a two-run homer by Matt Carson and a two-run single from Moncrief, but reliever Aaron Thompson came on to get the final out of the inning before working a hitless ninth for his first save.
Meyer and Guerra were attempting to finish off the second combined no-hitter in Rochester history -- Jeff Manship and three relievers threw the first one on July 6, 2011 when the Red Wings blanked Lehigh Valley, 7-0.