CHICAGO – After a series of shaky outings, highly touted pitching prospect Alex Meyer has been dropped to the bullpen at Class AAA Rochester, where the Twins hope he will make the adjustments necessary to get back in the rotation.
Through eight starts this year, Meyer is 2-3 with a 7.09 ERA. In 39⅓ innings, he has struck out 41 but walked 24, and opponents are hitting .325 against him with a .418 on-base percentage. In his most recent outing Tuesday, he gave up four runs over 4⅔ innings on seven hits and three walks.
“I think he was almost relieved [at the demotion] because he’s frustrated himself,” Twins assistant General Manager Rob Antony said. “He’s the type of guy who puts a lot of pressure on himself and feels like he’s letting us down.
“He is a highly touted prospect and he’s struggling and [saying], ‘I’m supposed to be in the big leagues. I’m supposed to be on the doorstep and I’m taking a step back.’ It happens to a lot of pitchers and a lot of players.”
The Twins have been working on Meyer, 25, to throw from a higher angle to get more movement on his pitches. They believe he has dropped his arm, leading to flatter pitches.
But this will also be a time for them to clear Meyer’s head. Meyer, who went 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 27 starts at Rochester last year, has a habit of letting little things get to him, which can lead to big innings.
“Alex, I think, sometimes wants to be perfect,” said Brad Steil, Twins director of minor league operations. “When he doesn’t throw a pitch where he intended to throw it, now he’s thinking about that pitch on the next pitch. That pitch is over. You’ve got to move on. That’s the learning process, the development part.
“There are some mechanical things we are working on, but the mental piece is probably more important.”
Good for Graham
Twins manager Paul Molitor will consider using J.R. Graham a little bit more now on the heels of the rookie’s three scoreless innings during Wednesday’s 4-3, 13-inning victory at Pittsburgh.
Graham, with a 3.63 ERA in 17⅓ innings, hit 97 miles per hour once and 96 a few times during his outings, but it was his willingness to throw breaking pitches that helped him Wednesday.
“It was a lot of fun,” Graham said. “Like I told Mollie the day he told me I made the team, when that phone rings and I hear my name I’m going to be ready to go out there.”
Graham is not about to appear in eighth-inning nail-biters, but Molitor might consider him once in a while when another reliever could use a break.
“You can’t go overboard,” Molitor said. “But you have to acknowledge it for what it was. It was a very impressive outing by a Rule 5 kid in a very important game.”
Stauffer makes 13
Righthander Tim Stauffer returned to the Twins after recovering from a right intercostal muscle strain, giving the team 13 pitchers with infielder Doug Bernier sent back to Rochester.
“I don’t think it is going to be a long-term deal,” Molitor said of his three-man bench. “I don’t really prefer it, obviously.”
Molitor clearly prefers having 13 position players and 12 pitchers on the roster. “I would say, whether it is going to be three days or 10 days, I don’t want it to be very long,” he said.
• Righthander Casey Fien (shoulder) will begin his rehabilitation assignment at Rochester on Saturday when he pitches an inning. He will take two days off, then work back-to-back games. At that point, the Twins will determine whether he’s ready to return.