Cla Meredith faced waves of reporters last May 10 and told every unfamiliar face the same thing: He wasn't nervous making his big league debut 11 months after he was drafted and he was disappointed but unfazed by the grand slam home run—the first homer he'd ever given up as a professional—he surrendered to the third batter he faced, the Mariners' Richie Sexson.
Two subpar outings later, though, and Meredith was back to the minors for the rest of the season. And a little more than a month after his fiery big league initiation, Meredith admitted he was staggered by his rapid ascension to the majors.
"Well, at the time I didn't think I was nervous," Meredith said in the Pawtucket locker room at McCoy Stadium. "But then you look back on it—because you're so caught up in the moment, you don't even realize it. And I was nervous. I wouldn't say I was scared, but yeah, [he was nervous].
"Going up there and just kind of maybe the shell shock of it all mentally kind of turned into physical [struggles] when I got on the field. I was a mess and I didn't really realize it at the time."
Prior to his promotion, Meredith was one of the most dominant relievers in the minor leagues: Meredith—whom the Sox selected out of Virginia Commonwealth University in the sixth round of the 2004 draft—recorded 27 saves in his first 42 professional appearances and allowed just four runs in his first 47 2/3 innings, a comically dominant ERA of 0.76.
Meredith, a sidearmer who relies on a nasty sinker, was especially brilliant at Portland last spring, where he didn't allow a run in 15 innings, limited opposing hitters to a .106 average, allowed just one runner as far as third base and allowed just four of the 52 batters he faced to hit a fly ball. He became the second 2004 draftee to reach the majors—behind only Athletics reliever Huston Street—when the Sox called him up the morning of May 10.
But while Street became the Athletics closer and won the Rookie of the Year, Meredith felt the aftereffects of his rough big league debut the rest of the season. He went 2-5 with 10 saves and a 5.66 ERA at Pawtucket following his return and allowed opposing batters to hit .320 against him.
Since Meredith made his big league debut, he's been passed on the depth chart by 2005 draftee Craig Hansen, who pitched in the majors a mere three months following his selection, and Manny Delcarmen. But Todd Claus, who managed Meredith during his dominant stint at Portland, believes Meredith has the stuff and demeanor to become a successful big league reliever.
"I think everybody has seen two different Clas," Portland manager Todd Claus said. "I saw the Cla that was absolutely dominant, with a foot of sink on his fastball.
"It's an indication of what he's capable of. I know he hasn't had success at the major league level, but he's a very confident kid. And to get to the big leagues as quickly as he did, under the circumstances that [he did], I think he handled himself well. If h e can improve his breaking ball, get a little bit of the sink back on his fastball like I've seen him have, he's a quality major league reliever."
And as difficult as his debut was, Meredith knows it'll make him better down the road. "I think just the overall experience just kind of overwhelmed me a little bit," Meredith said. "And now that I've already had it, hopefully, next time will be the next time. It won't be the first time."
Padres Prospect Scouting Report: Cla Meredith
MadFriars Top Stories
Northwest League Player of the YearWe move up one level to the Northwest League, home of the Padres' short-season affiliate the Tri-City Dust Devils to look at some of the top position prospects that were in Eastern…
MadFriarsYesterday at 1:17 PM
MadFriars Q&A: Talking AZL with Sam GeaneyWe kick off our series of conversations about the 2016 season with Sam Geaney looking at the AZL squad that featured so many of the Padres' top picks and international signings.
MadFriarsFriday at 1:56 PM
MadFriars’ Arizona League Pitcher of the YearWhile the AZL Padres pitching staff featured a wide array of very young, high-upside pitchers this year, their best performers were a pair of college pitchers from small schools.
MadFriarsFriday at 7:56 AM
MadFriars AZL Player of the YearAs we do each offseason, the MadFriars staff looks at the top performers from every level in the system. We kick of the 2016 season review with the position players of the Arizona…
MadFriarsWednesday at 4:12 AM