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After Twins' camp, Meyer could reach new heights

Prospect quieting command questions, has potential to move quickly through system

After Twins' camp, Meyer could reach new heights

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With a 6-foot-9 frame, a fastball that reaches as high as 97 mph and a devastating slider, it's easy to see Alex Meyer emerging as a frontline starter for the Twins.

But it's also just as easy to forget that Meyer, who was acquired in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Nationals, has just one year of experience in the Minors and has yet to reach to Double-A. Meyer showed some of that greenness in his Grapefruit League debut against the Cardinals on Monday, when he came in to face a six-time All-Star and admitted he was a little star-struck.

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"I go out there, and the first guy I'm facing is Matt Holliday," Meyer said with a smile. "It was really neat. He's a guy I watched on TV when I was in high school. So this was my first Major League outing in a sense, and so it was just a really cool experience. I had a chance to get my feet wet."

Meyer was able to calm his nerves to get Holliday to ground out, and he ended up tossing two hitless innings in Minnesota's 7-0 win. Meyer impressed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in the process, as Gardenhire has liked what he's seen from Meyer so far this spring.

"You see with that kind of stuff that [hitters] have to back off a little bit," Gardenhire said. "That's what you get with power guys. That's fun to watch."

Meyer, who is ranked as the Twins' No. 3 prospect and the No. 40 overall prospect according to MLB.com, had a breakout year in the Minors last season after being selected out of the University of Kentucky by Washington as the No. 23 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Meyer's command has always been his biggest question mark because of his size, but he answered those questions by posting a combined 2.86 ERA with 139 strikeouts and 45 walks in 129 innings split between Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac last season.

"Last year, I made a really good stride with that," said Meyer, who is still working to perfect his follow-through. "When I got moved up, it was the best my command has ever been. So I just need to build on that."

The Twins liked Meyer so much they traded their everyday center fielder for him, which came as a surprise to Meyer, who didn't know who he was traded for when he spoke with general manager Terry Ryan for the first time on Nov. 29.

"I talked to Terry Ryan the day I got traded and I asked, 'Do you mind if I ask you who I got traded for, and who is coming with me?'" Meyer said. "And he just said, 'No one is coming with you, and you were traded for Denard Span.' And I was kind of like, 'Wow.' Denard Span is a great player and is well-known. So it made feel good that the Twins thought highly enough of me to trade him straight up for me."

The Twins do think very highly of Meyer, who is expected to start the season at Double-A New Britain. But he could move quickly through the system because of his experience at Kentucky and his dominance in the lower levels of the Minors.

But as Meyer found out this offseason, not everyone is quite as impressed by his skill set. He spent time as a substitute teacher in his hometown of Greensburg, Ind., and the students were more obsessed with his height than anything else.

"All the younger kids in the elementary school cared more about how tall I was," Meyer said with a laugh. "They couldn't believe it. They'd ask me to touch the ceiling and all that. So it was fun."

But it's not just the elementary school kids in awe of his stature, as Gardenhire likes his oversized frame because of the downward movement it creates on his pitches to induce ground balls.

"He's a big one -- a really big one," Gardenhire said. "He has a nice angle. A nice kid who can really throw a baseball."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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