"If you were going to tell me I was going to throw 120 pitches in a game in 2013, I would have told you you're crazy," Meek said. "I loved it. It gave me the opportunity to catch up on innings and really just to get more consistent work. Being able to start and being able to get that repetition really got me back on track."

Russell said he received a couple calls from Meek — who was looking to latch on with a team on a minor-league deal — in the offseason.

"He just wanted an opportunity," Russell said. "I think he's in a different place. I think he wants to get back to what he was. His makeup, I see it, just like I did then. The next piece is to go out on the field. So far, so good."

The Orioles are optimistic.

"He was free and easy," said Wallace, describing Meek's tryout in Baltimore. "If there was something wrong, he wouldn't be able to do it. The question is how healthy is he, where is he? If he's right, you might have something there."

Meek was planning on throwing for a bunch of teams following his throwing session in Baltimore, but the Orioles signed him before other clubs could pounce, Showalter said.

"He was getting ready to leave Baltimore and start doing a tryout for a bunch of teams down here and we were able to get it done," Showalter said. "I think we can out-opportunity people. He's going to be interesting."

Meek will battle for one of three or four available bullpen spots. It appears that Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, Ryan Webb and Brian Matusz have spots locked up. Troy Patton's 25-game suspension to begin the season opens an extra spot.

"It was tough getting to the point where I was at the top, making the All-Star team and going into 2011 ready and then getting hurt," Meek said. "It's been really hard to be patient. It sucked. It really sucked.

"When I say right time, right fit, last year was kind of getting everything back in the groove of things. And then, obviously with the starting, that brought back a lot of repetition. It kind of set me up for where I am now. Nobody knows what's going to happen here. There are a lot of really great arms here. We don't know what they're all going to do, but this is an opportunity."

eencina@baltsun.com

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