Command Is Key For Meyer

DUNEDIN, FL - While his 6-foot-6 frame would suggest a lot of power in his game, the fact is Ajay Meyer doesn't have top-shelf stuff. However, blessed with an ability to command his pitches, he has experienced a lot of success in the relief role the past two years, including another fine season in Dunedin this year.

After being signed by the Blue Jays in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, Ajay Meyer spent his first professional season at rookie ball toeing the rubber as a starting pitcher.

Meyer came up playing college ball at Ashland University – a Division II school – as a starting pitcher, but after a year with the Blue Jays, the organization saw his future in a different light. Last year at Class-A Lansing, Meyer was inserted into the closer role and thrived, leading the Midwest League with 33 saves.

He finished his first season out of the bullpen with a 3.67 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, which accompanied a solid 57/13 K/BB ratio across 56 and 1/3 innings of work. The 6-foot-6 hurler reflected on the adjustment phase that he went through making the conversion to pitching as a reliever.

"As a starter I had a routine and not pitching every five days was different," Meyer said. "You're not able to warm up like you do as a starter and you're getting up there and rapid-firing fastballs.

"It was different for probably the first half of the year and then I started to get the hang of it pretty well. This year I've gotten the hang of it and I kind of like it.

"If they wanted me to go back to being a starter, I would, but I like the reliever role pretty well. I prefer [being a reliever] now, but I'll do whatever they ask."

Meyer's comfort on the mound was apparent as the season wore on, as he was the owner of a 4.26 ERA in the first half at Lansing compared to a 2.92 ERA down the stretch. This year at High-A Dunedin, Meyer's role in the bullpen has been less clear.

Out of the gate, he was commonly used in a long relief, tallying more than one inning in seven of his first eleven appearances and subsequently served as the setup man from May through mid-July. In the past few weeks, Meyer appears to have emerged as the Blue Jays closer after teammate Blake McFarland led the team in saves during the first four months of the season.

Meyer converted the Blue Jays' final three save opportunities of July and was brought in for the first save opportunity of August in which he surrendered a pair of solo home runs in a loss against the Palm Beach Cardinals on August 5th. Meyer definitely enjoys the role that he's settled into at Dunedin.

"I'd say it's more of an adrenaline rush [pitching the 9th inning]. As a closer you're coming in with the game on the line whereas as I was doing for half the year here, I was just coming in no matter what – winning or losing. I mean you're always amped up to pitch, but in the closer role, always coming in with the game on the line is pretty big."

Meyer has arguably been even better in his second season as a reliever, as he has lowered his ERA to 3.03 while exhibiting ever better command of the zone. At Lansing he had a more-than-sufficient 9.11 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9, but has improved those rates to 10.62 and 1.21 this year, respectively. Meyer credits much of his success this year at Dunedin to getting ahead in the count early and often.

"I've just been attacking the hitters," he said. "A lot of them are free swingers and I've been getting ahead. Once you get ahead, it's a lot easier of a ballgame. When you get behind in the count, they're sitting on pitches they think are going to come and it's a lot easier for the hitters.

"I've always aimed to get a first-pitch strike right away and make them battle rather than battle myself against a hitter. I think that's helped me a lot."

In particular, Meyer noted that he has been able to garner plenty of first-pitch strikes by way of his slider, which he feels has been his most improved pitch this year. His slider typically comes in between 76-78 MPH and is a fine compliment to his two-seam fastball, which tops out at about 91 MPH.

Meyer usually throws from a three-quarter arm slot, but sometimes slides down to a sidearm release, particularly later in the count. In addition to the fastball and slider, the 26-year-old uses a changeup and an over-the-top curveball. Pitching coach Darold Knowles offered his observations about the hurler's repertoire.

"Ajay is one of those guys that can command all of his pitches," Knowles said. "He throws strikes with everything. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball and his slider is not the best out of everybody's, but they're all adequate and they're even better because he puts them where he wants to."

With pitchers at the lower levels of minor league ball, one of the most important lessons hammered home is consistency. There are several young pitchers in a given organization that have an impressive arsenal of pitches, but the ones that continue to move up the system are often the ones that can command the ball well day in and day out. Meyer has excelled in this area and will try to maintain his consistency during the final weeks of the season.

"That has probably been [Ajay's] biggest forte this year - the fact that he's been extremely consistent with his command," Knowles explained. "Sometimes he gets a little under the ball and leaves breaking balls up, but I think he's aware of it and he's trying to overcome that now. I'm very pleased with the way Ajay has pitched."


Future Jays Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nAfter being signed by the Blue Jays in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, Ajay Meyer spent his first professional season at rookie ball toeing the rubber as a starting pitcher.
\r\n
\r\nMeyer came up playing college ball at Ashland University – a Division II school – as a starting pitcher, but after a year with the Blue Jays, the organization saw his future in a different light. Last year at Class-A Lansing, Meyer was inserted into the closer role and thrived, leading the Midwest League with 33 saves.
\r\n
\r\nHe finished his first season out of the bullpen with a 3.67 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, which accompanied a solid 57/13 K/BB ratio across 56 and 1/3 innings of work. The 6-foot-6 hurler reflected on the adjustment phase that he went through making the conversion to pitching as a reliever.
\r\n
\r\n\"As a starter I had a routine and not pitching every five days was different,\" Meyer said. \"You're not able to warm up like you do as a starter and you're getting up there and rapid-firing fastballs.
\r\n
\r\n\"It was different for probably the first half of the year and then I started to get the hang of it pretty well. This year I've gotten the hang of it and I kind of like it.
\r\n
\r\n\"If they wanted me to go back to being a starter, I would, but I like the reliever role pretty well. I prefer [being a reliever] now, but I'll do whatever they ask.\"
\r\n
\r\nMeyer's comfort on the mound was apparent as the season wore on, as he was the owner of a 4.26 ERA in the first half at Lansing compared to a 2.92 ERA down the stretch. This year at High-A Dunedin, Meyer's role in the bullpen has been less clear.
\r\n
\r\nOut of the gate, he was commonly used in a long relief, tallying more than one inning in seven of his first eleven appearances and subsequently served as the setup man from May through mid-July. In the past few weeks, Meyer appears to have emerged as the Blue Jays closer after teammate Blake McFarland led the team in saves during the first four months of the season.
\r\n
\r\nMeyer converted the Blue Jays' final three save opportunities of July and was brought in for the first save opportunity of August in which he surrendered a pair of solo home runs in a loss against the Palm Beach Cardinals on August 5th. Meyer definitely enjoys the role that he's settled into at Dunedin.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'd say it's more of an adrenaline rush [pitching the 9th inning]. As a closer you're coming in with the game on the line whereas as I was doing for half the year here, I was just coming in no matter what – winning or losing. I mean you're always amped up to pitch, but in the closer role, always coming in with the game on the line is pretty big.\"
\r\n
\r\nMeyer has arguably been even better in his second season as a reliever, as he has lowered his ERA to 3.03 while exhibiting ever better command of the zone. At Lansing he had a more-than-sufficient 9.11 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9, but has improved those rates to 10.62 and 1.21 this year, respectively. Meyer credits much of his success this year at Dunedin to getting ahead in the count early and often.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've just been attacking the hitters,\" he said. \"A lot of them are free swingers and I've been getting ahead. Once you get ahead, it's a lot easier of a ballgame. When you get behind in the count, they're sitting on pitches they think are going to come and it's a lot easier for the hitters.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've always aimed to get a first-pitch strike right away and make them battle rather than battle myself against a hitter. I think that's helped me a lot.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn particular, Meyer noted that he has been able to garner plenty of first-pitch strikes by way of his slider, which he feels has been his most improved pitch this year. His slider typically comes in between 76-78 MPH and is a fine compliment to his two-seam fastball, which tops out at about 91 MPH.
\r\n
\r\nMeyer usually throws from a three-quarter arm slot, but sometimes slides down to a sidearm release, particularly later in the count. In addition to the fastball and slider, the 26-year-old uses a changeup and an over-the-top curveball. Pitching coach Darold Knowles offered his observations about the hurler's repertoire.
\r\n
\r\n\"Ajay is one of those guys that can command all of his pitches,\" Knowles said. \"He throws strikes with everything. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball and his slider is not the best out of everybody's, but they're all adequate and they're even better because he puts them where he wants to.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith pitchers at the lower levels of minor league ball, one of the most important lessons hammered home is consistency. There are several young pitchers in a given organization that have an impressive arsenal of pitches, but the ones that continue to move up the system are often the ones that can command the ball well day in and day out. Meyer has excelled in this area and will try to maintain his consistency during the final weeks of the season.
\r\n
\r\n\"That has probably been [Ajay's] biggest forte this year - the fact that he's been extremely consistent with his command,\" Knowles explained. \"Sometimes he gets a little under the ball and leaves breaking balls up, but I think he's aware of it and he's trying to overcome that now. I'm very pleased with the way Ajay has pitched.\"
\r\n
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