On the second pitch Alex Meyer threw in his three-inning start Friday at Surprise Stadium, the Angels’ 27-year-old right-hander found himself looking down at his cleats during his reworked delivery.
“That’s not what you’re supposed to do,” he told himself.
The idea is to keep his eyes on the target the entire time. Arranging his massive, lanky frame the same way on every pitch is difficult enough, and errant eyes won’t help.
“Other than that,” he said, “everything felt good, everything felt normal.”
Meyer threw 51 pitches, mostly in control, like his last start, unlike the one before it. When he left the mound, he completed sprint exercises along the warning track, then returned to the visiting clubhouse, where he completed the new, 20- to 25-minute recommended routine the Angels have given to all their starting pitchers this spring.
“It’s different, that’s for sure,” Meyer said. “With the new training staff here, we’re trying to make some adjustments, and not repeat what’s happened for a few years, in regards to an injury standpoint. It’s different.”
Asked about his pitchers’ post-start schedules, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia referenced new strength and conditioning coach Lee Fiocchi, hired over the off-season by General Manager Billy Eppler, who has brought on a new strength staff. But Scioscia insisted the changes were not related to the elbow injuries suffered by starters Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano last season.
“Different guys bring in different ideas,” Scioscia said. “This is not a response to what happened to Richards or Heaney or anybody. The well-being of every player is important to us.”
Meyer said the workout is “nothing crazy.” It involves stretching, strength exercises, and an increased overall focus on arm maintenance rather than the traditional distance running.
When Meyer reached the majors in September after his August acquisition from Minnesota, the Angels asked him to do what he normally did after his starts and observed it. In time, he said, they showed him exercises they recommended he incorporate.
“Now it’s more, ‘Here’s what we want you to do,’ which I’m obviously open to,” he said. “I needed to do something more proactive in regards to avoiding stuff.”
Meyer has a history of shoulder injuries, which accompanied his downfall from top prospect status. Now competing for the fifth starter’s spot or the chance to be the first one called up in the event of an injury, health is paramount.
“We’re learning as we go,” Meyer said. “We’re making some adjustments with the new strength coaches, a new system. Everybody here, we’re all learning, getting ready for the season. By the time the season rolls around, everything will be solidified more.”
Nonroster right-hander Yusmeiro Petit will start Saturday’s game against Colorado, Scioscia said, rather than right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who had been previously announced.
Nolasco will instead pitch in a minor league game, so he can accrue more innings while allowing more relievers to pitch in the big league game.
The Angels are still deciding whether right-hander Matt Shoemaker will start in a major or minor league game Sunday.
Scioscia said catcher Carlos Perez has changed the load in his swing to add power to his approach. The 25-year-old homered this week and has also tripled this spring. ……Scioscia said the Angels plan to deploy Jefry Marte in left field at some point in the next two weeks. He has previously played both first and third base, and did both Friday. With the club hoping to add to his versatility, Marte played left field for the first time last season and did not perform well. “What he’s lacking now is experience,” Scioscia said.