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Former Cat Alex Meyer pushing for big-league call-up

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Alex Meyer finished his three-year UK career with 253 strikeouts, fifth most in school history. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) Alex Meyer finished his three-year UK career with 253 strikeouts, fifth most in school history. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
When Alex Meyer was selected in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft in 2011, it seemed a matter of time before he would make his debut in the major leagues with the Washington Nationals. After nearly two years and a trade to the Minnesota Twins, it's clear Meyer won't be pitching for the Nationals.

That doesn't mean the former Kentucky ace won't be in the big leagues soon though.

Meyer has been with Double-A New Britain through the first month of 2013 and - just as he has done throughout his professional career - he's been impressive. He has made four starts and has a 1.64 earned-run average and a perfect 2-0 record, striking out 26 and allowing zero home runs in 22.0 innings in the process. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound right-hander has allowed no more than two runs in any outing this season and has lasted six innings in each of his last two starts.

A key weapon in his arsenal is a rare pitch known as the knuckle curve. Dom Amore from the Hartford Courant wrote about it on Monday:

The knuckle curve is baseball's wild card pitch. A handful of pitchers have thrown it, and nearly always it is a pitch they invented themselves. Burt Hooten, who pitched for the Dodgers and Cubs in the 1970s, had his knuckles on the ball and thrust his fingers forward as he released it. Mike Mussina, who pitched for the Orioles and Yankees from 1990-2008, tried to throw a conventional knuckleball, with two fingertips on the ball, but found his pitches would dive if he instead thrust his fingers out and made the ball spin faster, instead of not at all. These knuckle curves were slow pitches. Jason Isringhausen has also thrown a version of a knuckle curve during his long MLB career.

Meyer's version, too, is his own and presents its own challenges.

"I've never met anybody who throws it the way I do," he said. "I really stick my fingernail into the seam. You have to have big enough fingers to be able to do it. Most guys have the finger up against the ball. With me, if my fingernail is not right that day, it's going to be really hard for me to throw it. I've learned to adapt so that the length of my fingernail is where I like to have it. I use a nail file during the season."

Meyer digs his fingernail into the seams and flicks the ball as he releases it with his three-quarters motion. But there's nothing slow about Meyer's knuckle curve, which is why some scouts think it is a slider. He throws it better than 85 mph and it has a late, violent swerve.

"It's a hard slurve," (New Britain Rock Cats manager Jeff) Smith said. "The hitters' reaction? Not good. Especially right-handed hitters. He gets a lot of swings and misses with it."

It might not be long before MLB hitters are swinging and missing at his knuckle curve. Before then, Meyer will make his first start against a club from his former organization. He will get the call against the Harrisburg Senators from the Nationals organization on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. ET in New Britain, Conn.

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