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  Fri, June 4, 2004


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Meyers's recovery rewarded with Mets deal
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

The drive from Florida to Illinois is long enough.

But when you make the drive with the weight of what your future holds on your mind, the trip must seem interminable.

Tillsonburg's Mike Meyers, 26, made the trip in early spring. He'd just left A-level ball Port St. Lucie Mets because, with the Mets bringing in 80 pitchers for about 40 jobs, he didn't feel feel there was a future for him.

So Meyers got to Illinois without a job and with doubts about his future.

The longtime Chicago Cubs prospect fought back from shoulder surgery in 2002 before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. While he did pitch some in 2003, it was pretty much a writeoff season.

Before his injuries, he was a legitimate pitching prospect at Class AAA Iowa, a phone call away from the major leagues.

Then came the expected news. The Cubs weren't renewing his contract. That's why he wound up in the Mets organization.

But what most baseball players have learned about the game is there is no blueprint to success. Some players follow the standard road while others have to overcome a variety of detours and roadblocks.

That's why Meyers' stay at home in Illinois was short. Almost as soon as he got home, the Mets offered him a roster spot with their Class AAA International League affiliate Norfolk Tides.

In two appearances over nine innings, one appearance as a start, Meyers is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA.

"I've got to admit I had doubts about what was happening," said Meyers. "You think that maybe you are never in the right place at the right time or that maybe your stuff isn't good enough or that maybe you just aren't going to make it.

"But so far, things are going well. My arm feels as good as it has in a while. As long as I get a chance to pitch, I think I have major league stuff."

There is always a wariness among baseball players and those who talk to them when discussing good periods in their careers. It may be a superstition thing. Athletes are always one twinge or one injury away from looking for something else to do in their careers.

Bad stuff happens. How they overcome those problems goes a long way in determining how successful they will be.

Meyers caught a break last fall. He was named to Canada's national team which qualified for the Athens Summer Olympics.

"I think that really helped me," said Meyers. "There were a lot of scouts at the games and they got a chance to see that I could still pitch. It was exciting to play, but it also gave me a chance to show them that I still had good stuff."

It was good enough for the Mets.

"They had 80 pitchers and that worried me a little but they told me to be patient," he said. "So I waited. They asked me to stay again so I did, thinking I would give it a week and then ask for my release. After a week nothing happened so I drove home."

Meyers has worked hard to make his way back to within sight of the major leagues. He still needs a few breaks to get there though.

"I had a start and pitched well. Now Scott Erickson (longtime major league pitcher) is here so I'll probably go to the bullpen for long relief," said Meyers. "But that's fine as long as I keep pitching."

Meyers' fastball is topping out at 91 miles an hour.

"It's where it was before I got hurt," said Meyers.

The uncertainty of his situation is reflected in his contract. He's signed a month-to-month deal -- a standard minor league baseball contract. The Mets can terminate whenever they want.

But if Meyers' road to recovery continues as it has, the future will likely hold something a little more permanent.