Won't it be difficult, Ron Gardenhire was asked Saturday, to wait another year or two until Alex Meyer, possessor of a mid-90s fastball and scary breaking ball, gets enough minor-league experience to join the Twins?

"Who says we have to?" Gardenhire shot back, before remembering: His boss, general manager Terry Ryan, probably does.

Can't blame a manager for wanting to see more of a prospect like Meyer, though. The 6-9 Indiana native has demonstrated in training camp exactly why Ryan was willing to part with center fielder Denard Span to acquire this righthanded arm.

"The big kid was really fun to watch," Gardenhire said after Meyer's three shutout innings helped the Twins beat Pittsburgh, 5-4. "He had a nice little breaking ball. Or a big breaking ball."

Meyer doesn't know when -- or whether, for that matter -- he will be sent to minor-league camp, but he made it clear how valuable these past three weeks have been to him. He's worked with pitching coach Rick Anderson -- "He's been awesome," Meyer exclaimed -- on refining his mechanics, and he's learned a couple of new drills, too.

One of them is a Rick Anderson specialty -- pitching from a step behind the mound, so your front foot plants on an incline. It forces a pitcher to focus on his follow-through in order to keep the ball down.

"I feel like it's actually helped out quite a bit already," the 23-year-old Meyer said. "It forces you to get out front with the ball and finish through everything. And if you don't, it shows you exactly what you're doing wrong. So it's pretty instant, which is good, what I need."

The result is an improve knuckle-curve, Meyer said, his breaking ball of choice, especially since he can change speeds with it. "There are days where it's [in the] upper 80s, there are days where it's 83, 84," he said. "Today, I was just trying to throw strikes."

He succeeded, and likely earned himself several more days in the major-league clubhouse.


Anthony Slama had a rough ninth inning. He entered with a three-run lead, but instead of converting the save, he walked two batters and gave up a pair of hits, allowing the Pirates to score twice and close to within 5-4.

Slama was pulled with an out to go, and Virgil Vasquez, a 30-year-old former major leaguer who has spent the past two seasons in Australia, was summoned with the game on the line. But with the tying run on third, Vasquez got Darren Ford to ground out and end the game.

"That was fun to see, a kid get out there not having seen him pitch," Gardenhire said. " 'OK, kid, get a save.' "


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