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Orioles Q&A: Rill Talk with ... Evan Meek

Orioles Q&A: Rill Talk with ... Evan Meek
Evan Meek pitches during the Baltimore Orioles' 2-1 Opening Day win over the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards Monday, March 31, 2014. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

For the first installment of Rill Talk in 2014, I met up with Orioles reliever Evan Meek, who introduced himself to me before I had a chance to introduce myself to him. After being out of the major leagues in 2013 and missing most of 2012 with a shoulder injury, Meek returned to the big leagues this past week. I asked him about that, the new-look Baltimore bullpen and a picture hanging in his locker.

Q: How great was it to make your return to the big leagues this week?

EVAN MEEK: Man, it was awesome. It was awesome to be back. No one can really assimilate what that feels like. Coming into a game, Opening Day, 45,000 people, up by a run, eighth inning. For me being back here now, I love that they threw me in there, got me in there right away. You forget what the adrenaline is like, you forget what it's like to come in a game like that, just because it's been a little while since that's happened for me. Spring training's one thing, but 'Welcome to Opening Day, here you go,' right in the fire. It was a bit shaky, but obviously Brian [Matusz] came in and did a great job and then Tommy [Hunter] closed the door. It was a good team effort all the way. But for me personally, that was a pretty damn big moment. It was pretty huge. It was good to get that one out of the way, now I can settle down a bit and get ahead of the hitters, and not walk the leadoff guy. That's what you don't want to do coming out of the bullpen. It was good, man. It was a really good moment for me.

Q: Making the team out of spring training, you know you're going to complete your comeback soon. But does it make it even more special to do so on Opening Day?

EM: Yeah, obviously being down there in the bullpen, you're kind of ready every day to pitch. Just the phone rang, and they told me to get loose. Then Cruz hit that homer, which was awesome, and the phone didn't ring again, so it was like, 'Alright, go in there and do your job.' As you're running out there and, obviously when you're up for a while, you get used to it, it's not that big of a deal. I think if you ask anybody, if you ask Brian, if you ask Tommy, every one kind of just had those Opening Day jitters, those Opening Day emotions. Man, it was just incredible. I've never seen a crowd like that either. Never seen a crowd like that, never heard a stadium so loud, and I've heard a few people say that that felt like a playoff game.

Q: That day you came in to start the eighth inning. Is that a role that you like and are comfortable with?

EM: My role in the big leagues has been anywhere from a sixth-, seventh-inning guy, eighth-inning guy, a few ninth-inning appearances. We have guys down there that can do all of that. Obviously I've got to go in there and get outs, we all have to go in there and get outs. The roles will evolve kind of as we move forward.

Q: You guys started off with the Red Sox, Tigers, and Yankees. Is it a good thing to start right way playing some of the top teams in the AL?

EM: Absolutely. It's a tough schedule. I think we have the toughest schedule to start out the season in baseball, and they're all very important games. Not just for guys in the 'pen, but for the team, for the starters. Everybody's got to be focused right off the bat. So it's important to be sharp, it's important to be in control, and, like I said, to get those first ones out of the way, relax a little bit, breathe until your next outing, and go focus on doing your job and getting those outs and getting ahead of hitters and such.

Q: I see you have a picture hanging in your locker of somebody laughing with Nelson Cruz. Who is that and any reason for the picture?

EM: That is Paul Cater. He's a buddy of mine. He was a strength coach for us down in Florida and he has a bit of wild hair. Actually, [Joe] Hogarty, our main strength coach, put that up in my locker. I actually just took a picture of it and sent it to him. Just a little bit of an inside joke kind of thing. You may actually see a bunch of these things popping up in my locker, so we'll see.

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