Meyer to begin Triple-A season as starter

Twins' No. 12 prospect spent most of '15 as reliever

Meyer to begin Triple-A season as starter

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Alex Meyer will open the season as a starter for Triple-A Rochester instead of pitching in relief like he did most of last season, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Monday.

Meyer, who was optioned to Triple-A Rochester in the latest round of cuts Friday, will be stretched out to start, but Ryan said it doesn't mean he'll stay in that role all season. It's mostly so Meyer, at 6-foot-9, can get more repetitions to work on his mechanics and his changeup. Given Minnesota's rotation depth, Meyer remains more likely to get called up the Majors this year as a reliever than as a starter.

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"We've reached a consensus on Alex Meyer and he's going to start because we want him to work on his pitches," Ryan said. "And that's tough to do in the 'pen. I'm not saying it'll be for the life of his career or even the life of the 2016 season, but that's way we're going to start and we'll gauge it as we go."

Meyer, ranked as the club's No. 12 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, made eight starts with a 7.09 ERA at Triple-A Rochester last year before he was moved to relief. He fared well in that role with a 0.53 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 17 innings before he was called up to the Majors for the first time in late June.

Meyer, though, struggled in two appearances with the Twins, allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings, including three homers. After being sent back down, he had a 7.65 ERA over his next 20 innings with Rochester, but finished the season by throwing 17 2/3 straight scoreless frames.

Meyer, who was acquired for Denard Span before the 2013 season, came into camp with a chance to make the bullpen but had a 5.79 ERA with four walks in 4 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League play. Meyer's control remains an issue, as he walked 4.7 batters per nine innings at Rochester last year.

The Twins believe he can cut down his walk rate with better mechanics, as he's worked hard to correct his arm angle, which dropped last year. He also mostly ditched his changeup when pitching in relief last year, but the Twins would like to see him develop that pitch more and starting gives him that chance.

"It's a usable pitch, but I wouldn't say it's an out-pitch," Ryan said. "But if he's on his game, it's a usable pitch."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.