For Troy’s Meadows, Triple-A is OK

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2001

Special to the MESSENGER

TUCSON, Ariz. (June 9, 2001) – A shaky start to the2001 season has not shattered Brian Meadows’ confidence. But it did earn the Charles Henderson High School graduate a May 29 demotion from the Kansas City Royals to the ballclub’s top farm team.

Instead of being engrossed with self-pity, the 25-year-old Meadows realizes being with the Omaha Golden Spikes of the Pacific Coast League could be a blessing in disguise; an opportunity to refine his pitching skills without being in the spotlight.

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"I’ve just got some things I’ve got to work on. It’s less of a pressure situation for me. I can work on things without really concentrating on winning down here as much as developing," Meadows said before Friday’s game against the Tucson Sidewinders.

Meadows, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander, has made 10 starts with the Royals this season, posting a 1-6 record and a 6.97 ERA in 50 1/3 innings pitched. He’s walked 12 and stuck out 21 batters while yielding 73 hits. That last statistic is the one that especially concerns Kansas City’s front office.

"He’s working on getting people out. That’s the bottom line," Golden Spikes manager John Mizerock said. "In the big leagues, he wasn’t getting many people out there. We’re breaking it down into small parts, better pitches… pitching velocity. We’re trying to take it into small steps for one big plan, and that’s to get people out consistently with good pitches.

Meadows says arm problems or fatigue are not to blame for his struggles.

"Velocity is fine. Everything is fine. It’s just that my ball did not have the movement that it had. All I’ve got to work on is getting the movement back on my ball," he said.

Not blessed with an overpowering fastball – he’s usually clocked at around 90 mph, according to Mizerock – Meadows must learn to utilize his heater more proficiently.

"Part of the problem is the location of the fastball," Mizerock said. "(He needs to make) fewer mistakes trying to move his fastball around, throw it with some movement and throw it in better spots where he won’t get hurt, won’t give up hits, won?t give up runs, won’t create losses.

"Brian’s not a power pitcher so he’s going to have to use all three of his pitches, fastball, curveball, change-up, and locate all three of them to be effective. He can do that, and it’s just a matter of doing it consistently."

Last season, Meadows demonstrated he has the knack for this craft. He finished the season with a 13-10 record while suiting up for the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals. After being traded to the Royals, Meadows went 6-2 to end the season.

"It was a good year. It was a career high in wins and innings. And I felt really good coming in to this year. I still feel strong. I’ve hit a few bumps, but I’ll be back. I definitely feel I have what it takes," he said.

"Just coming over and finishing strong, going 6-2 in a league that I wasn’t familiar with" was a big thrill, he said. "I thought it was more comfortable for me here. I didn’t have to worry about hitting or anything, getting pulled early. I could just stay and pitch; that’s what I get paid to do.

"The American League is definitely harder to pitch in. In the National League you always have the luxury of knowing the pitcher’s coming up and, of course, nine times out of ten the pitcher’s not a great hitter. (In the American League) there’s just no room to let up. You’ve got to stay at ’em the whole time, all the way through the lineup. I think that makes you a better pitcher in the American League."

Mizerock said, "He has the ability to be a solid major-league pitcher. "He was 6-2 in the last half year last year so we know he can get it done. It’s in there somewhere. It’s just a matter of getting it out consistently."

"I think he understood looking at the stat sheet with a 1-6 record and a (6.97) ERA that’s not going to keep you in the big leagues. He’s accepted the demotion, understands what he’s trying to do to get back to the big leagues. I just give him the ball every fifth day and let him try to go out and do it."

Meadows, who went 22-28 with the lowly, post-World Champion Florida Marlins in 1998-99, has pitched 10 1/3 innings with Omaha, allowing 16 hits while walking four and striking out six. He has a no-decision in both starts, but opponents are batting .356 against him – indicative of a need for more minor-league seasoning.

"Brian’s going to have to get better down here. That’s why he’s here to figure out how to get people out," Mizerock said candidly. "Two starts, four starts, six starts. Kansas City’s in no hurry to get him back unless he’s ready to pitch and get people out there."