After he was released, Evan Meek went home and gathered himself, then got an invitation to workout for Mal Fichman, the Padres' dogged scout who often finds players in the independent leagues and other out-of-the-way spots, in November. Within days, he was in Peoria for the Padres' instructional league, and soon thereafter had several in the organization buzzing about his stuff.
Meek continued to impress in spring training this year and earned a spot in the rotation for Lake Elsinore. Through his first two starts, Meek has allowed only one run on six hits over 10 innings. Perhaps most important, he has issued four walks while striking out 13.
We caught up with Meek last week to get an update on the whirlwind that has been his last six months.
You got out to Peoria last fall and, pretty quickly, your name surfaced as someone the club was excited about. Did they have a mechanical fix with you, or did you just start to click when you came back to the game?
Evan Meek: It was never stuff (for me). When I got down there, they didn't try to change a whole lot. They just kept it real simple and just let me pitch. Mal, (pitching coach Dave Rajsich), and Bill Bryk, all of them, just sat back and kinda watched. The little tweaks they did with me were real simple, real minor. There wasn't a whole lot that they changed, but what they did change, it got me back on track.
At this point, how do you feel with both your control and command?
Evan Meek: I'm feeling real good. With me, it's just kind of a deal with getting that confidence back, starting to have some success again. I had a lot of success in instructs, but then again, that's instructs, that's not season play. But any kind of success then for me was huge because I had struggled for a year or two.
How are you feeling with the system's big focus on the changeup?
Evan Meek: That's huge for me. I've always kind of been a guy who went in there and threw hard. But to be a starter and go deep into games, you need a change-up. Hitters here, Double-A, Triple-A, the big leagues, they can all hit a fastball. Our organization focuses on 20 percent changeups, and I think that's huge, because if you want to be successful in the big leagues, you've got to be able to slow the ball down. I'm trying to incorporate that into my routine. I threw it a lot in spring training and was like, ‘Wow, that works!' You know, I don't have to go out there and try to throw as hard as I can. I can slow it down. It's a feel pitch, and I'm just starting to get the feel.
Are you feeling settled with the squad that broke from spring training?
Evan Meek: Absolutely. All the guys on this squad are awesome. We all get along real well. The coaching staff is amazing – our manager and Webber. I feel good here. I feel at home here. It's nice being on the West Coast as opposed to being over there on the East Coast because I live up in Seattle, so it feels more like home down here.
It's obviously a fresh start for you here. What are your goals for yourself this year?
Evan Meek: I think the biggest thing for me is just to show that I can be consistent. I think stuff is already there, it's just for me, being consistent and showing I can go out there every fifth day and give my ball team a chance to win the game. I'm grateful for what they did. I'm just grateful to have a jersey on my back. I'm real excited for the season and for things to come. I've tried to put the past behind me.