Last Call from the Desert….Utility Infielders, Evan Meek, Baseball in Alaska

On a rain day in Arizona

“I have been throwing the ball the way I want all spring. There have been pluses and minuses and the minuses out-weigh the pluses. Obviously you want to come in and make a good impression but they sent scouts to see me so they know what I can do.”

Reliever Josh Lindblom, who has an 8.44 ERA this spring after being acquired from the Phillies in the off-season.desert

The Rangers are still pondering their options as far as utility infielder and there are a couple of options in the trade market. The Diamondbacks are willing to talk about veteran John McDonald and the Brewers could be willing to trade Donnie Murphy.

Evan Meek’s pitching line on Thursday against the Dodgers did not look good but manager Ron Washington still said the veteran reliever has thrown the ball “very well” in his last two innings.

“He’s started slowly but he’s starting to pick it up,” Washington said. “He’s keeping his fastball down and has a nice (cut fastball) working.”

Meek allowed three runs on four hits. Two of the hits were broken-bat singles and another was a bloop double. But the one that hurt was an inning-ending grounder that first baseman Brandon Allen could get to because he slipped. The ugly line left Meek with a 13.50 ERA for the spring but the former All-Star reliever from the Pirates said he has also been encouraged with his latest outings.

“I started off a little inconsistent but the last two outings have been pretty effective even though the line hasn’t been pretty,” Meek said. “Things are getting better and I’m getting stronger.”

Meek, who was 5-4 with a 2.14 ERA in 70 appearances during his All-Star season in 2010, is one of the main candidates for a right-handed middle or setup role in the bullpen.

Did a story on Aaron Cunningham being from Alaska on Thursday. Gary McGraw is the Rangers amateur scout in charge of covering Alaska as well as Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Canada.

He offered the following assessment of baseball in Alaska:

“Alaska is an interesting place to scout baseball talent……to say the least. They love the game up there and their summer Alaskan Collegiate League has been one of the most competitive summer leagues over the last 40 years. We spend a week up there each July (all 30 clubs) watching the top prospects in the league along with the local HS tourney that is played on the same weekend. While their season is somewhat limited, they certainly don’t lack for desire or passion for the sport. Many of the better HS players will travel into the lower states for “exposure” tournaments and four of them will actually be in Surprise later this month playing for the Langley Blaze out of British Columbia.

“In 2001 I was fortunate enough to draft and sign Chris Mabeus,RHP in the 11th round while with the Oakland A’s. We actually Rule 5’d him here in Texas shortly thereafter although he did not stick with the big club. Chris played HS baseball in Soldotna, Alaska before attending Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho where he helped lead them to a couple of their many NAIA Championships. He was a strong bodied, physical RHP even in HS. Very raw but with average MLB arm strength. He just needed “seasoning” and development of his secondary pitches, which he gained while pitching for the Warriors. I am very proud of him!

“As you know, although Aaron was born in Alaska he attended South Kitsap HS before moving north to attend Everett CC. Kip and I both scouted him and sure liked the way he swung the bat while playing for the Trojans. I would love to see him with our big club all year! Hopefully Keone Kela, RHP also out of Everett CC(2012) will follow in his footsteps!

“I make two trips a year through Canada (which I also have) into Alaska in addition to seeing the various prospects that make their way into the exposure tournaments. This allows me ample time to see both the HS and college players that are honing their craft up north. The kids are terrific, playing through various adverse conditions when needed as they certainly don’t want to miss out on a chance to “be seen”. I have recommended many of them over the years for college opportunities and it seems like 1-2 find themselves on our draft list every year.”

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