Meyer impresses in long-awaited return to action

April 2nd, 2024

MIAMI -- When a club opens a season 0-5 for the first time in franchise history, silver linings seem like a cop out. Until the tide turns, the Marlins will look for positives wherever they can.

No. 3 prospect threw five innings of two-run ball in his return from Tommy John surgery in Monday night’s 7-4 loss to the Angels at loanDepot park. His performance was a welcome sight after the club’s first four starters – Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Ryan Weathers and Trevor Rogers -- allowed 13 runs in 16 innings (7.31 ERA).

“I feel great,” said Meyer, who last appeared in a game on July 23, 2022. “Everything felt good. First time out there I wasn't that nervous I don't think. I was able to make some pitches and feel good. Felt good throughout, and obviously not the result we want, but something to build off of.”

The 25-year-old Meyer relied on his wipeout slider, throwing it 43 percent of the time in his 79-pitch start and recording all four of his strikeouts on it. He caught Mike Trout looking on the offering, but Trout later took Meyer deep by belting a solo homer on a full-count changeup.

According to MLB Pipeline’s scouting report, Meyer’s slider has a 70 grade on the 20-80 scale. To put his slider into perspective, only five Major Leaguers threw one in 2023 (min. 200 pitches) as fast as he did in the series opener (89.1 mph): Tyler Glasnow, Sandy Alcantara, Bobby Miller, Shane McClanahan and Gerrit Cole.

Meyer encountered trouble in the fifth, issuing back-to-back walks -- the only ones of his outing -- to garner a mound visit from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. He was told to lean on his fastball a bit more, so Meyer buckled down and thwarted the threat.

“Yeah, he had good stuff,” Trout said. “He was throwing the ball up, had a different shape on the slider. It was a tough at-bat. Just got to get your pitch.”

The third overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Meyer was just six innings into his MLB career when he exited his second start in Pittsburgh after 10 pitches. An MRI revealed a UCL tear, so Meyer underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks later. At the time, he ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 overall prospect.

Although the Marlins intended on easing him back this season, optioning him to Triple-A Jacksonville on March 12, they recalled him to round out the rotation with right-handers Edward Cabrera and Eury Pérez and left-hander Braxton Garrett sidelined by injuries. Meyer intends on making the most of the opportunity, but there will be limitations coming back from surgery.

“He made it difficult in Spring Training, obviously,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “He's coming off of a big injury, so it's just the reality. I'm not going to throw him 200 innings. It’s just not going to happen. He's got to be monitored no matter what for his career. We really want him to have a successful Major League career. So throwing him out there 200 innings or 180 innings doesn't make any sense.

“It's going to be a difficult decision, but also the reality is he's not going to continue to make every start every fifth day. It's just not fair to him. But he's doing exactly what he wants to do and showcase his stuff and to show us that he's a Major League starter, which we all thought he was.”

But Meyer’s effort was for naught. For the second straight game, Miami put together a big first inning, only to cough up the lead. In doing so, the Marlins joined dubious history, becoming just the fourth team since at least 1974 to take at least a four-run lead in the first inning of consecutive games and lose both.

Right-hander George Soriano coughed up a two-run lead in the sixth on consecutive homers by local kid Nolan Schanuel and Trout. Schumaker used closer Tanner Scott in the eighth to face the top of the order in a tie ballgame. He walked the first three batters before Taylor Ward sent a grounder to second baseman Luis Arraez, who bobbled the ball while considering a throw home.

The game encapsulated a bit of everything that has gone wrong so far this season: Nick Gordon crashing face first into the left-center wall. Jo Adell producing a broken-bat, double-tap RBI single. Right-hander Burch Smith balking in a run. Miami’s two hottest hitters, Josh Bell and Jake Burger, combining for three double plays.

“It's not lack of effort,” Schumaker said. “That would be a meeting for sure. But I think you guys are seeing the same thing. It's not lack of effort. It's just lack of execution.”