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Meek plays waiting game

Meek plays waiting game

TAMPA, Fla. -- Evan Meek will have to wait another day.

Knowing that at some point in the next 48 hours he will learn whether or not he will board a flight to Atlanta, all Meek can do now is sit tight. And wait.

The Pirates held off from making their final Spring Training decision on Thursday. With just two more Grapefruit League games left to play, it's likely that the Pirates' final two bullpen spots will be handed out on Friday morning.

Lefty Phil Dumatrait is expected to take one of those two vacancies, leaving Meek and former first-round pick Sean Burnett vying for spot No. 25 on the Opening Day roster.

Burnett was not with the team for the second straight day, as he and his fiancée, Jessica, are expecting a child. His absence could explain why the Pirates delayed making that final cut another day. With Meek and Burnett not scheduled to pitch on Thursday, it's likely that Pirates management has already internally made its decision.

If Burnett is left off the roster, he'll start the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. But for Meek, news that he would not be on the team would put him in limbo, with just days until the start of the season.

As a Rule 5 Draft pick, Meek would have to be offered back to the Rays for half of the $50,000 cost the Pirates paid Tampa Bay in December. Essentially, he could go from being on the cusp of the Pirates' Major League roster back to being stuck in the Minors.

So, when Meek took the mound on Wednesday, in what was likely the last time the 24-year-old right-hander would pitch before the final bullpen spot is handed out, it's understandable why he later admitted to being a tad bit nervous.

In two innings, he gave up three walks, two hits and two runs. The line score may not have been pretty, but Meek showed poise when he needed to. He found that fastball command when there was no place to put another runner.

"I could have lost it, but I didn't," said Meek, who escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam with minimal damage. "It was one of those days where I just didn't have my stuff, but I still made the pitches when I needed to. It's good that they saw that."

Manager John Russell saw the silver lining in the erratic appearance as well.

"He managed really good damage control," Russell said. "He threw some nice pitches late, [and had] good action on his fastball. Hopefully you don't get into a situation like that very often, but learning to pitch his way out of it is a good learning experience."

Meek had been plagued by control issues at times during his Minor League career, but showed the Pirates in his first six spring appearances that those problems should no longer be a glaring concern. Before his last appearance, Meek had walked just two in seven innings of relief.

Meek said he hopes that six fairly strong outings ultimately trump one shaky game.

"I would have liked to have had a nice, strong outing like I have all spring, because that would have made me feel a little more confident about what they're going to do," said Meek, who pitched for Double-A Montgomery all of last season. "But hopefully I did enough throughout the spring."

So as Meek tells himself to remain patient as he waits for the final roster move to be made, he can't help but wonder. He knows the scenario.

There's Burnett, who has unquestionably had the most dominant Grapefruit League on the staff. And then there is Meek -- waiting.

Meek's heard the whispers -- that he can't be ready for the Majors since he's never pitched above Double-A. He doesn't buy into it. And now he's just hopeful he's done enough to convince the decision makers as well.

"I feel that I can get big league hitters out," Meek said. "I feel like I can have success at the big league level. And doing what I did here in spring showed that."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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