Evan Meek – Photo by Mark Olson
Evan Meek arrived to the Pirates clubhouse on Saturday afternoon about an hour before the club was set to take batting practice and work on infield drills. The right-hander flew from Toledo, Ohio, where the Triple-A Indians were playing the Mud Hens. The Pirates placed right-handed reliever Juan Cruz on the disabled list and recalled Meek for his third stint in the Majors this season.
“It feels great,” Meek said of being back in Pittsburgh. The right-hander was greeted by the guys in the clubhouse with high fives. “I hope that obviously Cruz is okay. This team is doing really well. I’ve been watching them. It’s just great to be here and be a part of it in any way I can. Whether it’s eating innings or getting outs. Just good to be back here.”
“Seeing where the team is now, it’s like, God, I want to be a part of that. Just want to win with these guys because it’s such a good group of guys. Just excited to be here and do what I can.”
Meek’s overall numbers in Triple-A have been good. He has a 2.21 ERA in 27 innings, with a 7.4 K/9. There is some concern with his 5.6 BB/9 ratio, as control has always been an issue with the right-hander. His velocity has improved from earlier in the season, although it’s not fully back to the 2010 form.
“I talked with [Triple-A Manager] Dean Treanor today,” Skipper Clint Hurdle said. “They see movement. The fastball command has been good down in the zone. The ball is cutting. He’s still throwing his breaking ball as well. He’s been pitching well for them.”
“I trust our men down there with what they see, the work they do. We felt it would be an appropriate time to get him back in here and get him in the mix.”
“Just pitching. Just getting consistent work,” Meek said. “I’ve pitched a lot. I feel great. Just pitched that seventh and eighth inning role and doing what I did here when I was healthy. It feels good to be healthy and feel right.”
During the 2010 season, Evan Meek was dominant. His 2.14 ERA over a career-high 80.0 innings in the big leagues earned him his first All-Star nod. The right-handed reliever struck out 70 batters over his 70 appearances and heading into spring training in 2011, Meek was being considered at the time along with Joel Hanrahan to be the Pirates closer.
In 2011, Meek battled several injuries and made two trips to the disabled list with right shoulder tendonitis. Meek tossed just 20.2 innings last year but spent the offseason getting healthy and in better shape then he had been in his career.
Meek worked hard to gain back his All-Star velocity, when he was hitting 96, 97 regularly on the radar gun. He struggled during Spring Training and put up a 7.59 ERA in 10.2 innings early in the season, while seeing a velocity in the low 90s. The club decided to move him to Triple-A in order to regain his form. Meek said prior to the game that he feels like he’s back to the way he was pitching back in 2010.
“I feel like I’m back to where I was, back to where I was in 2010,” Meek said. “There’s no pain. I feel good. Just throwing strikes. Velocity is better. I’m just ready to go.”
“We’re going to get him out there. He has been stretched out to two innings,” Hurdle said of Meek’s role with the big league club. “We’ve got a pretty good eighth inning guy right now, a pretty good ninth inning guy so we’ll use him in front of that.
I don’t have any hesitation in using him when we feel or need to be appropriate.”
With Meek getting the opportunity to prove him that he is healthy, Juan Cruz is taking a step back from the game to allow his right shoulder to get some rest and treatment. Cruz was placed on the DL with right shoulder inflammation and said he’s been feeling discomfort since before the All-Star break.
“It’s been bothering me since the All-Star break,” Cruz said. “We’ve been doing treatment and everything. It wasn’t too bad, but we’ve doing treatment and it hasn’t gotten any better…I saw the doctors yesterday before the game and they said it didn’t look too good, not too bad but he didn’t want to take a chance.”
Cruz tossed a scoreless 0.2 innings his last trip to the mound on the 17, but hasn’t appeared in a game since. The right-hander walked two in the frame and overall has a 2.61 ERA over 31.0 innings.
“The last time I pitched, I felt tender in my right arm. I talked to them and they gave me two days and after that it didn’t feel too good.”
Cruz said it was the first time since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on May 12, 2010 that he had felt discomfort in his pitching shoulder. He only appeared in five games with Kansas City that season.
“Everything was okay after that (surgery),” Cruz said. “But the last couple days it didn’t feel too good. I don’t think it’s anything bad. We decided to shut it down now.”
“I think he pitched with a little discomfort, as many of the guys do prior to that,” Hurdle said.”Some are able to work through it. He’s worked through it at different times in his career. We wanted to continue to keep him in play. At this particular point in time, we decided it would be best to just back him away and get him some rest before it became more problematic.”