Max Meyer’s fastball, changeup and slider were all working beautifully in a dominant outing on Tuesday night, but the factor he singled out as a difference maker was something else: his thoughts.
“When I got out on the mound, I just felt like I was rolling,” Meyer said. “My thoughts were good in my head. I was able to control my aggression, because sometimes I get too pissed out there and just want to work, drive, drive, keep doing everything fast-paced. I’d get behind in a count maybe, and I was able to control my breathing. I’ve been working on that.”
Disadvantageous counts didn’t come often for Miami’s No. 3 prospect, who was in control throughout his second start of the season. Meyer started the night strong, striking out three of the first four batters he faced. That set the tone for the right-hander’s outing, as Meyer carved through the Bulls’ lineup inning after inning. The 23-year-old allowed just one ball out of the infield, and that didn’t come until the fifth inning when Durham’s Rene Pinto flew out to right field for the first out of Meyer’s final frame. Of his 53 pitches, 37 were strikes.
Meyer's command wasn’t just limited to the mound.
“I was able to control myself in the dugout, too, eat some food when I’m hungry,” he said of some midgame energy bars and mental pauses. “It’s just not strictly ‘game on.’ I was able to control everything pretty well. Just having that mentality like when I get out of an inning I don’t need to be thinking, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, get back on the gas.’ Just take a little break. I think that’s going to be huge for me.”
Meyer came out for the sixth, but he departed with Jacksonville’s athletic trainer Eric Reigelsberger after throwing his warmup tosses.
“I was feeling really good, was rolling, and then my calf on the first warmup pitch of the sixth, it just was like a charley horse,” Meyer explained. “I kind of stretched it for a second, threw another one, and it was the same exact [feeling].”
After a brief discussion, Meyer left the field alongside his manager Daren Brown. Despite the frustration of a brilliant outing cut short, Meyer took away a wealth of positives.
“I was feeling really good," he said. "My pitch count was low. I was just locating pretty much everything. That was the first time when I was starting to get in the groove and feeling it with my fastball. Command was really good. Changeup was working really well. Slider, I was able to go backdoor hard in the zone, and I could get one back foot, too, in 0-2 counts.
“I give a lot of credit to Nick Fortes too behind the dish. He called a really good game, and it felt like we were kind of playing a video game, just getting out there and dotting what he puts down. It was a fun night.”
Tuesday’s start provided a blueprint for success in 2022, predicated on Meyer’s biggest point of emphasis heading into the new season.
“The big thing for me is my fastball command,” he said. “Being able to command that, that’s what happened today. I was able to spot my heater, and I can do things like that, and it makes my secondaries so much better. That’s the one thing that I’ve got to keep doing, fastball command. I’m still going to throw a healthy dose of offspeed, but that’s the one thing I’ve got my mind set on every time I go out, every bullpen, every catch play that I have, every week.”
As for the calf, Meyer doesn’t anticipate anything lingering. The Woodbury, Minn., native felt back to normal immediately after his first win of the season.
“I feel good now,” he said. "I’m not going to be held back for anything. I’m ready to go the next time.”