FORT MYERS, Fla. — With 29 pitchers invited to Minnesota Twins spring training, there’s a lot of evaluating to do. And, says former All-Star Eddie Guardado, there’s no shortage of talent.
"Look around the room," Guardado said as he spread his arms Monday morning in the Twins clubhouse at Hammond Field on the first official day of spring training. "Everybody here has the talent, otherwise they wouldn’t be here."
One with considerable talent is Alex Meyer, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound flamethrower who was acquired from the Washington Nationals in exchange for center fielder Denard Span. Meyer, should he make the roster as a starter, could become the team’s all-time hardest thrower. But he says there’s no extra pressure to make the team because of the trade for the talented Span.
"You obviously want to perform and show them what I can do and help the team," Meyer said.
Meyer has been clocked as high as 100 mph, but speed isn’t the main concern. Today, the general consensus is Meyer can bring heat at about 98 mph with regularity
"Everybody loves 98," said Guardado, the team’s bullpen coach, "but I think all of them here throw pretty hard. It’s where they put it. But 98, that’s something special. Now he’s learning how to pitch and we expect good things from him."
"I’m in the mid-90s usually, but sometimes it goes up," Meyer said. "It just depends on the day.
He also said his repertoire of pitches has improved.
"The changeup is coming along, getting better. My curve ball is my strikeout pitch. I’m confident when I throw it that it will get good results. I feel good and I’m ready to go."
Meyer already has struck it rich in baseball. He reportedly turned down a signing bonus of more than $2 million after his senior year of high school when he was Indiana’s Mr. Baseball. He was 8-0 with a 0.95 ERA while striking out 108 in 51 innings for Greensburg High School. The Boston Red Sox had picked him in the 20th round, but Meyer opted for college baseball at the University of Kentucky.
The Nationals drafted Meyer with the 23rd pick of the first round in 2011 and signed him to a reported $2 million deal.
As for attending Kentucky for three years, the 25-year-old right-hander has no regrets.
"If I had it to do over again, I would," Meyer said. "I’m happy where I’m at."
Besides his own career, Meyer is enjoying what his alma mater is doing on the hardwood. Kentucky’s Wildcats are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in men’s basketball.
"They’re definitely fun to watch this year," Meyer said.
Asked if Kentucky coach John Calipari ever tried to convince the 6-9 Meyer to try basketball, he laughed.
"No, that’s not my sport," Meyer said.
Now comes the challenge of becoming a starter with the Twins’ staff, which includes Phil Hughes, Ricky Nalasco, Kyle Gibson and Ervin Santana. Among the leading candidates vying for the fifth spot besides Meyer are Trevor May and Mike Pelfrey.
"I’m ready to go and it’s exciting," Meyer said. "I feel like it was a productive offseason. Now I want to at least have a good showing here and just help the team."