Somewhere in the Eastern United States in April 2014, two Minnesota Twins pitching prospects held a conversation about changeups. Before a game in Pennsylvania or New York, Deolis Guerra, a tall reliever, approached Alex Meyer, an even taller starter at 6-foot-9, to tell him he would be better off nixing the circle-changeup grip he favored for a faster, three-finger change.
In the International League that spring, Meyer experimented to great success. The former University of Kentucky standout had always lacked a reliable third pitch to complement his fastball and breaking ball and ensure he could remain a starter rather than a reliever. Guerra’s suggestion was the solution he sought, Meyer has since said.
Both men are Angels now. On Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum, Guerra watched as Meyer hardly utilized it in his Angels debut. The 6-foot-9 right-hander threw only two over his 3 1/3 innings in the Angels’ 4-1 loss to the Athletics. The first changeup was clocked at 92 mph, and Marcus Semien flailed at it. But Meyer could not command his vicious fastball well enough to feel comfortable deploying the change of pace.
“I need to throw more than that,” Meyer said.
Still, the Angels were encouraged by Meyer’s abbreviated debut. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning. When his pitches were around the strike zone, the Athletics generally could not come in contact with them.
Of Meyer’s 68 pitches, 40 were fastballs, reaching as high as 98.9 mph. Thirty-one were balls. He issued four walks. He struck out five men. Six of the 15 Athletics he faced put the ball into play.
“It was good to see that stuff,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “That stuff is real.”
Scioscia said it will be “impossible” for Meyer to reach 100 pitches in a start this season. He has four outings left, probably, and might only augment his workload a bit by the end. But the club is counting on him as a starter for next season, and this trial will announce how much expectation he can handle.
Often on Wednesday, he did not only miss the strike zone, but missed wildly — particularly to his pitching-arm side with his fastball, outside to left-handed hitters. He believed he was missing because he was too excited and thus allowing his left side to come open too early within his delivery.
“I’m trying to make each pitch nastier than it needs to be,” he said.