In the spring of 2015, Minnesota's Alex Meyer found himself ranked among baseball's best prospects by every public scouting service in existence. One of them, Baseball Prospectus, rated him 14th in the sport, halfway between the Dodgers' Julio Urias and Joc Pederson.
The 6-foot-9 right-hander had long been ogled because of his frame and accompanying easy velocity. His fastball commonly clocks 96 mph, and he throws two breaking balls. The year before, Meyer learned a new changeup and led the International League in strikeouts.
But his 2015 was marked with strife. He spent most of his time pitching in relief and struggled in his major league debut. He was hurt most of this season, and the Twins gave up on him last month.
The Angels called up the 26-year-old Saturday and informed him he'll start his first game for the franchise Wednesday against Oakland, in the rotation spot briefly occupied by journeyman Brett Oberholtzer.
"In my mind, going forward, I feel like I'm going to be as good as I ever could've been," Meyer said before the Angels beat Seattle, 10-3, at Safeco Field. "So, I feel good with where I'm at right now. I don't have any lack of confidence, by any means."
The Angels pounded the Mariners on Saturday, launching three consecutive home runs for the first time since April 13, 2014, and doing so before making an out. After Yunel Escobar was drilled in the left hand to begin the game, Kole Calhoun fouled off eight pitches from Seattle starter Taijuan Walker and then unloaded a two-run homer. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols followed with solo shots, and Calhoun and Pujols later added another homer each. Tyler Skaggs struck out seven in six effective innings.
The Twins' former general manager, Terry Ryan, once told the St. Paul Pioneer Press he thought Meyer had a "confidence issue" preventing him from reaching his potential. His relationship with Minnesota became fraught with disagreement. Manager Paul Molitor was repeatedly quoted saying Meyer was better suited to the bullpen.
The Angels are committed to using him as a starter. They allowed him a month to build stamina after acquiring him Aug. 1 as the sure-swinging agent in their trade with the Twins. The Angels sent left-hander Hector Santiago and a minor league relief prospect, Alan Busenitz, to Minnesota for Meyer and right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
If Meyer can come close to what he once was expected to be, the Angels will win the trade. If he cannot, the Twins will. Upon the acquisition, Angels General Manager Billy Eppler told Meyer he had been following him for years, since he worked for the New York Yankees.
"It's always a good thing having somebody there who knows you," Meyer said. "I hope he likes me."
Meyer missed starts in 2013 because of a sore shoulder, and he felt shoulder pain as early as April this season. He made his first major league start in May while feeling subpar, he said, and was immediately optioned to triple-A, where he did not pitch for a month. Eventually, it was diagnosed as an impingement in his subscapularis muscle, between the shoulder blade and ribs. He was shut down for six weeks.
For several consecutive off-seasons, Meyer had worked with physical therapist Jamey Gordon at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, near his hometown and residence of Greensburg. Shoulder exercises were emphasized. But, Meyer noted Friday, he did not visit last winter.
"So, I don't know if there's a correlation there or not," he said. "The plan is to go back there, work with them, and work on the correctional stuff I've been given here and hope that will strengthen everything up and get that out of the back of my mind."
The Angels' coaches have never seen him pitch in person. But they are familiar with his ability.
"Like all of baseball, you are drawn to his power arm," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "This guy was a first-round pick. He has a nice delivery and he spins the ball."
Right-hander Cam Bedrosian will undergo season-ending surgery Tuesday to address a blood clot in his upper right arm. Dr. Robert Thompson, considered an expert in repairing clots and thoracic outlet syndrome, will perform the operation at Washington University in St. Louis. …The Angels also recalled first baseman Ji-Man Choi, bringing their roster to 30. Choi logged a .960 OPS in triple-A this season but a .618 OPS in 117 major league plate appearances. …The Angels claimed left-hander Ashur Tolliver off waivers from Baltimore and optioned him to Double-A Arkansas, where the Travelers are contending for a playoff spot. …Outfielder Shane Robinson began to rehabilitate his hip flexor strain Saturday for triple-A Salt Lake.