Pirates relief pitcher Meek strives to regain his 2010 form
TribLIVE Sports Videos
BRADENTON, Fla. — Evan Meek's heart was pounding when he walked into Dr. James Andrews' office last June.
It was not an everyday, ho-hum visit to a doctor. Andrews makes his living performing Tommy John surgery, the procedure that replaces ligaments, rebuilds elbows and (usually) restarts careers.
Meek knew something was wrong with his shoulder. It was sore, and his performance out of the Pirates' bullpen had been erratic. He was getting about one strikeout per inning, but was allowing nearly two baserunners per frame. Meek's fastball lost about 4 mph, dropping to the low 90s.
Pitching through the problems wasn't working.
"It's tough when you get injured during the season because you keep trying to make it back to pitch," Meek said. "It's kind of like a scab; it you keep picking at it, it's not going to heal. If you leave it alone, it will heal itself."
But sometimes the healing process requires a scalpel as well as time, which is why Meek fidgeted anxiously as he sat in Andrews' waiting room.
"A lot of guys go to him to have surgery," Meek said. "I feel fortunate that he didn't recommend that. He said I could heal through rehab. It took a little bit longer than I would've liked, but the important thing now is I'm feeling good and it's behind me."
Rest and physical therapy knocked the tendinitis out of Meek's shoulder. A newfound love of long-distance cycling in the offseason trimmed several pounds from Meek's body — he weighed in Sunday at 208 pounds, 17 pounds lighter than where he ended last season.
Meek reported to spring training camp in top shape, ready to reclaim a role in the back end of the bullpen.
"From all indications of what I've seen from him throwing long toss, (batting practice) and his sides, he's healthy," pitching coach Ray Searage said. "We've just got to build up his arm strength and get him back to where he was, mechanically. That's not a problem. It's about getting him the reps out there so he can feel more comfortable about himself and get his timing back."
Meek made his spring training debut Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays. The right-hander lasted just two-thirds of an inning and allowed three earned runs, three hits and two walks.
The inning looks ugly on paper, but there were some positives. Only one ball was hit with authority; two of the singles were dribblers. A fielding error in the outfield and a mistake by Jeff Clement, who failed to cover first base on a grounder, added to Meek's woes.
Meek isn't sure what led to his health problems last year. He doesn't believe it came from overuse, although he racked up 70 appearances in 2010.
"At the end of (2010), I felt strong. I felt great," Meek said. "I fell behind in spring training last year and probably tried to do too much, too early. Just one of those things."
The challenges he faced last year made Meek more experienced and more patient this spring.
"He has a much better understanding of what he needs to do to have the finish, the velocity and those things," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The mechanics need to be in line. It's just like setting up dominoes. You set them up correctly, touch one and all of them fall. If they're disconnected, not all of them fall."
2012 Pirates Spring Trainingsrc="http://photos.mycapture.com/PITT/142148 3⁄40749828T.jpg" alt="2012 Pirates Spring Training" title="2012 Pirates Spring Training">
Photos from Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Florida.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.