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TwinsCentric: Will Alex Meyer pitch for Twins this year?

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: August 6, 2014 - 9:13 AM
With the Twins once again buried in last place and their starting pitching staff once again ranking among the worst in the league, fans have been asking the same question for much of the summer.

When will Trevor May and Alex Meyer get the call?

By all appearances, both of the highly rated pitching prospects have been MLB-ready for some time. May and Meyer rank fifth and sixth, respectively, on the International League ERA leaderboard, and they're both in the top three for strikeout rate.

Yet, both have been left to dominate in Triple-A while the Twins give starts to lesser talents like Kris Johnson, Logan Darnell and Yohan Pino. We're now almost a week into August, and still there's no clear indication that either May or Meyer is even on the verge of a promotion.

It's not hard to see why people are frustrated, but at the same time, there are circumstances at play with both pitchers that need to be recognized.

May is very, very close. When he was seemingly nearing a call-up in June, he suffered an ill-timed calf injury that cost him a month, and he's been working his way back. Just now has he finally returned to a normal workload; he threw 99 pitches in his last start, the first time since mid-June that he's gone over 80.

He's already on the 40-man roster. Bringing him up is a simple move at this point. I have to imagine that May will be on the Twins within the next turn or two through the rotation.

The wait for Meyer will probably last longer. He might not even debut in 2014. And while that's unfortunate to hear, it's not something to get riled up at the organization over.

Last year, Meyer missed two months -- more than a third of his season -- with a sore throwing shoulder. It was very scary, especially when you consider that his size and delivery always elicited injury concerns from scouts.

Fortunately, the shoulder has been fine this year. He hasn't missed a start and has been making mincemeat of minor-league hitters. But when you look at this pitch count from start to start, it's obvious that the Twins are being very cautious with him.

Here are Meyer's inning totals and pitch counts for each outing with Rochester this season:

4/6: 5.0 IP, 79 pitches
4/12: 5.1 IP, 83 pitches
4/18: 3.2 IP, 77 pitches
4/23: 6.2 IP, 100 pitches
4/28: 6.0 IP, 100 pitches
5/4: 4.2 IP, 92 pitches
5/10: 4.0 IP, 92 pitches
5/15: 5.0 IP, 69 pitches
5/22: 5.1 IP, 79 pitches
5/28: 6.0 IP, 88 pitches
6/2: 5.0 IP, 78 pitches
6/7: 6.0 IP, 81 pitches
6/13: 2.0 IP, 51 pitches
6/18: 3.0 IP, 78 pitches
6/23: 3.2 IP, 73 pitches
6/28: 6.0 IP, 77 pitches
7/3: 6.0 IP, 86 pitches
7/8: 6.0 IP, 96 pitches
7/18: 6.0 IP, 88 pitches
7/23: 6.0 IP, 86 pitches
7/29: 5.0 IP, 96 pitches
8/3: 5.2 IP, 91 pitches

Looking at the game log, a few things stand out. First, he's only been allowed to pitch into the seventh inning once all season, despite the fact that he's routinely blowing away opposing lineups. Second, only seven times in 22 starts has he been pushed over 90 pitches.

Twins Daily member jokin was in attendance during Meyer's latest start in Louisville, and described the performance in a post here on our forums. His writeup noted that Meyer was pulled rather abruptly with two outs in the fifth despite "looking completely in command of the game," as the righty had surpassed the 90-pitch threshold.

This observation coincides with what we're seeing in Meyer's pitch count trends. There's a clear effort being made to monitor him very closely and pull him out of games where he's laboring or approaching that triple-digit pitch mark.

It's a lot easier to do that in Triple-A, where the games don't really matter, than in the majors. Big-league starters are expected to throw more than 90 pitches. And Meyer, whose command remains spotty despite all his notable strengths, could have some games where he hits that 90-pitch mark pretty quickly as he transitions to the highest level. That taxes a bullpen.

As a fan, I am dying to see Meyer pitch in a Twins uniform. But at the same time, I'm not going to fault the organization for taking every precaution with such a highly valuable arm, especially in a lost season. If they just want to get him through a full, healthy campaign, with the idea of having him try and win a spot next spring, I can live with that.

At this point, it might not make much of a difference. He has already thrown 112 innings this year, which is eight more than he threw total last year, between the regular season and Arizona Fall League. As careful as they've been with him, it's hard to imagine the Twins letting Meyer top 150 innings this season.

That means he might only have five or six starts left. While it would be nice for the fans if a few of those come in the majors, that also requires adding him to the 40-man and starting his service clock. Those aren't huge hurdles, necessarily, but they're factors.

Ultimately, it wouldn't shock me if the Twins let Meyer finish out in Triple-A, and it wouldn't really upset me.

International League hitters might feel differently.

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