By John Perrotto
ANAHEIM, Calif._ When Evan Meek was asked what he learned from his first All-Star Game experience, the Pirates right-handed middle reliever gave a most interesting answer.
“I don’t know if I really learned anything as much as I had something reinforced to me,” Meek aid Tuesday night after the National League beat the American League 3-1 at Angel Stadium. “Being here for these two days made me realize even more how much I love the game of baseball. To be around the best players in the game and to have a chance to meet them and talk to them was so exciting. It made me remember how fortunate I am to play in the big leagues.
“I think it’s easy to kind of take for granted that you’re in the big leagues after awhile. But an experience like this makes me want to work harder to go back to the regular season and work harder than ever to put myself in a position where I might be in more All-Star Games.”
Meek did not get into the NL’s first victory in the Midsummer Classic since 1996 or even warm up.
However, his inclusion on the roster is indicative of the fact that his outstanding first half of the season has been noticed, even if he is pitching for a team that is already 28 games under .500 at 30-58, putting it just one game behind the Baltimore Orioles (29-59) for the worst record in the major leagues.
“He deserved to be here,” said NL manager Charlie Manuel of the Philadelphia Phillies. “You look at what he’s done this year and he didn’t have to apologize for his spot on this team and I didn’t have to apologize for picking him.”
Meek, 27, is 4-3 with one save and an outstanding 1.11 ERA in 40 games in his first full season in the major leagues. He has allowed just 32 hits and 14 walks in 48 2/3 innings with 45 strikeouts.
Meek could be in for a larger role in the Pirates’ bullpen in the next few weeks. He will likely be moved into the closer’s job should Octavio Dotel, as expected, be traded.
The Pirates feel Meek is ready to try to hold leads in the ninth inning with a 95-mph fastball that moves and a slider that seems to disappear when it gets to the plate.
“I’d like the chance to close if the opportunity arises,” Meek said. “I think everyone who pitches in relief wants to do that. To me, that would be the ultimate job.”
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