"I had a stress reaction in my foot so I had pins put in it to keep it from becoming a stress fracture," Brad Meyers explained when I asked in an email interview about the injury that limited the Washington Nationals' then-24-now-25-year-old '07 5th Round pick to just six starts and 30.2 IP in 2010 after he'd been named the Nats' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009. "They thought those pins were irritating the bone and causing pain so they were removed. Next, came the second surgery in which they put two larger pins in my foot on one side and went in and scoped the joint. Long story short, I didn't know if I was ever going to be healthy again. I did physical therapy at home for 5 months and it really started getting better when I got to spring training. Now it feels good as new. Have to give a lot of credit to the many doctors that I visited over the last couple years along with the Nationals for helping me get it right."
Meyers started the 2011 campaign at Double-A Harrisburg, going (3-2) in six starts and 36.1 IP in which the 6'6'', 195 lb right-hander collected 38 K's (9.41 K/9), posted a 2.48 ERA, a 1.82 FIP and managed to avoid walking a single batter. In early May, Meyers was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, where he finally allowed a walk 40.1 innings into the season when former Nats' infielder Brendan Harris worked an eight-pitch base on balls in Meyers' debut with the Chiefs. (2-0) in 3 starts and his first 17.1 IP at Triple-A, Meyers has walked just that one batter (0.52 BB/9) while striking out 16 (8.31 K/9)...
Federal Baseball (FBb): The last some fans may have heard from you was during an interview on MASN after you were named the Nationals' Pitcher of the Year in the Minor Leagues in '09. You talked then about walks being your biggest pet peeve, and judging by the fact that you've now allowed just one walk [in 53.2 IP] that's clearly still the case?
Brad Meyers:"Yeah, it hasn't changed much. I like to pitch to contact and would take a groundball over a strikeout in almost every case; except when runners are in scoring position and you really need a strikeout."
FBb: Did you adopt a pitch-to-contact approach to match the Nats' philosophy? Because you trust your stuff enough to throw strikes? Or because you trust your defense?
Brad Meyers: "The Nats' pitching philosophy to me has always been to get outs any way you can. I have always felt like I can do that more quickly and efficiently by pitching to contact. Walks aren't always the worst thing in the world; especially if you are pitching to the lefty cleanup hitter when there is an open base; you have more freedom to make him hit your pitch instead of the other way around."
FBb: Can you give Nats fans who might not be familiar with you a quick bio: where you grew up, went to school? Was it a big deal for you to move from the West Coast to the East when you were drafted by the Nats?
Brad Meyers: "I was born in Santa Ana, CA at Western Medical Center where my mom used to work in the E.R. I grew up in Yorba Linda and am still living there for half of the year when I am not playing baseball. Yes, it was a big change for me to move to the east coast mostly because it is so far from my family/friends/home. There is definitely a comfort zone that you have to leave."
FBb: "What did you study in school [at Loyola Marymount], or what would you be doing if you hadn't been drafted?"
Brad Meyers: "I studied business/marketing in school. I had to go back and finish two fall semesters in off-seasons because I got drafted when I was a junior. It was very important to me to have options if baseball didn't work out for some reason. This offseason I actually had to start thinking seriously about what I would be doing if I couldn't play anymore. The foot injury sidelined me for a about a year and it wasn't getting better in the fall when I started my physical therapy. So to make a long story short, I have no idea what I would be doing if I didn't have baseball, but would hope I could do something involving sports."
FBb: A lot has been made about putting prospects like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in the minors to get them used to the everyday-ness of playing professionally. What adjustments did you have to make on and off the field and do you agree that a player should start in the minors to get used to playing a sport professionally and living as a professional athlete?
Brad Meyers: "Where do I start? Professional baseball seems glamorous on the outside, but it really isn't. Playing baseball everyday instead of being in an office is great, but it can also be a grind. You have to show up every day and do something that makes you better that day so that you can ultimately reach your goal of getting to the big leagues. I would say the biggest challenge to overcome is that nothing is constant. You can move up or down a level at any time/get hurt/get released."
FBb: Do you read your own press? Baseball America prospect rankings, scouting reports that sort of thing?
Brad Meyers: "I try to stay away from that stuff. Every now and then, my family will send me an article, but I don't think its a good thing to become wrapped up in the press. As a player, I know what I have to do to be successful. I don't need to look at a newspaper article to know if I've had a good or a bad game. I just think that it's important to stay on track with what you're doing because it's your career."
FBb: Who in your life is most responsible for you being where you are today in your career? Parents? Self-motivated? Friend, teammate, coach?
Brad Meyers: "All of the above. My parents/brother have been there my whole life to support my goal of playing professional baseball. They've all agreed to play catch with me on any given day when I'm sure they would rather be doing something more exciting. My dad has been a big part of all that and has gotten really good at the whole communication thing. He won't call me the same night when I have a bad game because he knows I won't want to talk, so now he waits until the next day haha. A few of my coaches growing up were former big leaguers/minor league players so I definitely looked up to them and knew this is what I wanted to do. It's also amazing when you get text messages after having a good game. You realize how many people/friends are following your career; it's a good feeling. Self-motivation is the biggest one here. It's difficult to stay on track for 142 games. It's also difficult to battle injuries and wonder if you'll ever play under the lights again. If you don't want to make sacrifices or do everything you can to play baseball, you'll find out pretty quick."
FBb: Which coach/fellow player has had the biggest influence on your development? What advice did they give you?
Brad Meyers: "It's hard to name just one in the Nationals' system because so many have contributed to completely changing my mechanics and getting a consistent delivery. So, I will go with a college coach/summer ball coach (Chris Beck). He was good with numbers so every start he would tally up your balls and strikes and every statistic you could think of and put in on paper. He would have what percentage of hits or strikeouts came on a 1-1 count or a 2-0 count. It was amazing to see on paper because it made you realize just how important it is to get ahead of hitters and challenge them. That is where I'd say I picked up a big part of my own pitching philosophy."
FBb: You were initially described as a fastball/slider pitcher when you were drafted, and you've talked before about adding a cutter to your pitch selection. What were the biggest adjustments you had to make as a pro in terms of the pitches you throw and can you describe any ways in which your approach changed as you've moved up through the system?
Brad Meyers: "The pitching school of Brad Meyers would teach you to throw inside! Work mostly off your fastball and mix your offspeed and be able to throw it in any count. Avoid getting into patterns and making it easy for a team to get a good scouting report on you. Each level the margin of error gets smaller and smaller. I'd have to say the biggest jump was from High-A to Double-A."
FBb: You earned the call up to Triple-A pretty quickly and are joining 2010 Minor League pitcher of the Year Tom Milone, fellow '07 pick Ross Detwiler, Yunesky Maya, etc. with the Chiefs. Do you allow yourself to think about how close you are now to the Majors, or just focus on your work and let the Nats' front office do their's?
Brad Meyers: "As soon as you start playing the GM game you are in trouble! Your mind is somewhere it shouldn't be. Work hard in between starts and be consistent. That is the big difference between minor leaguers and big leaguers: CONSISTENCY. It's nice to pitch with these guys because I feel like I can learn something from every one of them. I'm realistic, but I also tell myself that the big leagues is only a phone call away."
(ed. note - "Thanks Brad. And thanks to Terry Byrom and Will Bentzel with the Harrisburg Senators for help with the photo used above.")