Lexington Legends

Closer starts strong for Legends

Daniel Meszaros isn't perfect.

He's doggone close, though, in his role as closer for the Lexington Legends.

Meszaros boasts a league-leading nine saves in nine chances. Overall, he has made 12 appearances, spanning 11 innings.

He has yet to surrender a run, earned or unearned. He has struck out 16, walked two and held opponents to a .108 batting average.

"What he's done has been great," said Travis Driskill, Lexington's pitching coach while Charley Taylor recovers from surgery. "And what he does is attack the strike zone. He is very aggressive with his fastball.

"He's got a curveball that we haven't gotten to see a whole lot of because they're either putting the fastball in play early or they can't catch up to it."

Of the eight Legends pitchers acquired via the draft, six went in the 20th round or better, another in the 34th round. Meszaros, a right-hander out of the College of Charleston, was taken last year in the 48th round.

"I was pretty disappointed when I got drafted that late," he said. "But, you know what, I felt like I was just as good as any of the other people drafted, high or low."

Meszaros, from Boca Raton, Fla., pitched in Lexington in 2006. He was the starter in Charleston's NCAA regional title-game victory over Kentucky at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

"That was the last game I pitched in the season," he said. "My shoulder had a torn labrum. I pitched (that way) for probably the second half of the season. I didn't know.

"I remember that game. I was trying to warm up and trying to warm up, and it came time that I had to get on the mound and start pitching, and it just killed (me). I didn't pitch too well, but I got through a couple innings and we ended up winning the game, so it was good."

Charleston swept through the regional, beating Notre Dame (with Jeff Samardzija), Ball State and Kentucky. But Meszaros would soon be on an operating table.

"I had labrum surgery. I took a season off my junior year and then, when I came back, I came back strong," he said. "My arm was there. But, I don't know. I really don't know what the problem was. I had a horrible season. I gave up like 18 home runs or something. The two years previous I maybe gave up four — total."

His draft stock plunged.

"Maybe bad luck. ... Coming off surgery," Meszaros said. "Bad season. Plus, I'm not the biggest guy on the team."

The Astros assigned Meszaros to Tri-City of the New York-Penn League last summer.

He made 12 relief appearances, going 1-3 with one save and a 4.44 ERA. He struck out 46 and walked eight over 261⁄3 innings, holding batters to a .212 average.

His size — 6-foot, 170 pounds — belies his power. His fastball usually comes in at 90 to 94 mph.

"I don't know how much it moves," Driskill said, "but I know he throws it to the location that he is going for, and he keeps it down real well."

Driskill credits Meszaros' power to genetics and "very clean mechanics. I think that's what allows him to repeat that delivery. And, again, he continues to pound that strike zone because of that."

Although Charleston used him as a starter and a reliever, Meszaros thinks he's best coming out of the bullpen.

"I just think it fits me better. As a starter, you kind of have to have three pitches to get through (when) you get late in the game," he said. "And right now my change-up, or third pitch, just isn't there. So I like just the one inning. Go in for one inning and kind of throw max effort and go after hitters that way."

The biggest difference between Meszaros the college pitcher and Meszaros the pro, he says, is his control. In college, he was a thrower, able to simply overpower most batters.

As for velocity, "I think I throw just about as hard as I ever did, but I think I throw easier," Meszaros said. "It's not like a max effort. ... I guess it's not like 'just muscling it in there.' It's more of a fluid, nice and easy when it comes out."