Mike Mayers Has Faith In His Fastball
On his way to the majors, 27-year-old righthander Mike Mayers has been up, down, way down, and all around in different roles until arriving this spring in a new spot—out of minor league options.
"Ball’s in my court,” Mayers said. "So for the first time in my career, perform and hopefully I have a spot.
"I can’t go down to (Triple-A) Memphis for a tuneup. It’s time to do it and stop talking about it.”
Mayers was part of the cavalcade of relievers who moved between Memphis and St. Louis the past three seasons as a way to create depth in the bullpen by way of elasticity on the roster.
In 50 big league appearances last year Mayers recorded a 4.70 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 15 walks in 51.2 innings. He asserted himself as a power pitcher by holding his velocity—he averaged 96 mph—at a level surpassed in the Cardinals’ bullpen only by Jordan Hicks.
That was enough to earn Mayers regular recalls to the majors, and it could be what puts him ahead this spring, when he will battle lefthander Chasen Shreve and righty John Gant, who are also out of options.
Mayers, a 2013 third-rounder out of Mississippi, has been in this spot before—balanced precariously on the brink of waivers—and each time the Cardinals have sided with his promise, sided with his fastball.
In July 2016, Mayers scored a spot start against the Dodgers and didn’t survive the second inning. He allowed eight hits and nine runs in one of the most difficult debuts in baseball history. What the Cardinals saw pop at Triple-A had fizzled in the majors. Still, they found a spot on the 40-man roster so they didn’t lose the prized arm to another team.
Mayers responded by realizing if the Cardinals had that faith in him, then he should have it in his fastball. He let loose. His velocity soared, and success followed. In a bullpen thirsty for swing-and-miss pitches, he has a chance to stand out and a reservation to stick around.
—Justin Williams, the outfielder the Cardinals acquired from the Rays to increase their depth of lefthanded hitters, fractured his hand punching a television during the offseason and will be sidelined at the start of spring training. Williams declined to offer details, saying only that it was a fit of anger that he regretted.
—The best switch-hitting prospect in the organization, Dylan Carlson, earned an invitation to big league camp that could be a harbinger of a promotion to Double-A Springfield and a chance for his offense to flourish. Carlson has been one of the youngest players in every league he’s played, and this past season he hit .246/.348/.390 overall with 52 walks and 78 strikeouts in 99 games in the Florida State League.