Evan Meek threw two innings today, allowing a run on two hits, with a strikeout and a home run. In Kristy’s game recap, Clint Hurdle is quoted saying that Meek hit 94 MPH once, and was mostly around 92 MPH.
There has been some concern over Meek’s velocity, and the concern is valid. The right-hander is recovering from a shoulder injury. Not every pitcher comes back from that. Meek used to throw in the mid-to-upper 90s, and now he’s touching 94 once and sitting in the low-90s. There’s no guarantee that his velocity will bounce back.
It’s not like Tommy John surgery, where a pitcher has an elbow injury, has surgery, and a year later he’s back to normal. There has been a lot of talk about Meek needing to add strength. But what if he can’t add that strength back right away, or at all? He doesn’t really stand out throwing 90-92 MPH, unlike when he was throwing 96+ and being viewed as a potential closer candidate.
The worst case scenario here is that Meek starts in Triple-A, or on the disabled list. The Pirates have the depth to easily replace him in either event. Right now they have Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop, and Jason Grilli looking like locks for the bullpen. The other four spots will be a battle between Tony Watson, Daniel Moskos, Meek, Chris Leroux, Jared Hughes, Daniel McCutchen, and Juan Cruz. That doesn’t include guys who have less of a shot, like Brad Lincoln, Ryota Igarashi, or Shairon Martis.
The Pirates wouldn’t be hurting without Meek in the short term, but in the long term they might be. It was only a year ago that Meek was viewed as a potential closing candidate. The Pirates don’t have anyone who has stepped up to potentially replace Hanrahan in the ninth inning. It should be noted that only a year ago, Hanrahan hadn’t stepped up as a sure bet for the ninth inning. The current closer could be in line for a $7-8 M payday in 2013 if he has a repeat of his 2011 season in 2012. That’s a high price for the Pirates to pay, which makes it important for them to find a replacement.
Meek looked like one of the guys who could replace Hanrahan. Now he doesn’t even look like a lock to start the year in the majors. And since shoulder injuries are unpredictable, there’s no guarantee that he will bounce back to his old self, ready to re-establish himself as a closer candidate.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Red Sox 6-5. Recap here.
**Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones each homered today in an intersquad game at Pirate City. Also in that link, the latest injury updates from minor league camp, including an update on Phil Irwin, who is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season.
**The Pirates reassigned four players to minor league camp. The Spring Training Tracker has been updated with the moves.
**ESPN has been releasing their top 500 MLB players for the 2012 season. Today they released numbers 351-400. The Pirates had five players on the list: Garrett Jones (359), Charlie Morton (361), Clint Barmes (374), Erik Bedard (379), and Kevin Correia (383). Here is a list of all of the Pirates ranked in the 351-500 range. I will say this: Pedro Alvarez was ranked 436. The list only takes in to account 2012 expectations. If Alvarez isn’t expected to be better than guys like Correia and Barmes, then the chances of the Pirates doing anything this year are slim. Although Alvarez was one of the guys mentioned as a potential Jose Bautista breakout candidate.