Bears’ Meyer making himself at home on Mon County mound

GRANVILLE — Contrary to popular belief, West Virginia Black Bears pitcher Stephan Meyer is not registered to vote in Monongalia County.

Some folks may have wondered after seeing the right-hander’s name on the Black Bears’ roster for the third consecutive season.

Meyer, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 18th-round draft choice out of Bellevue (Neb.) University, in 2015, is the only player to have played here for three seasons.

No, being a Black Bear for life is not his career objective.

Meyer, 23, has his sights set on pitching 75 miles down the road at the Pirates’ PNC Park. Like everybody else, he yearns to advance in the Pirates’ minor-league system each year.

He began last season as the Black Bears’ opening-day starter. He went 2-6, with a 4.50 earned-run average, in 16 starts. Meyer struck out 50 and walked 22 in 82 innings.

The Pirates’ brass decided he needed more time in Morgantown, so Meyer is intent on making strides here this summer and earning a promotion.

Meyer doesn’t necessarily plan to become a resident, but he does enjoy playing at Monongalia County Ballpark.

“We’re blessed to be here at this park,” said Meyer, who was scheduled to make his first start of the season Friday night, at Williamsport. “It’s really nice, and Morgantown takes great care of us.”

He eagerly anticipated getting out of extended spring training, in Bradenton, Fla. Meyer had been at Pittsburgh’s Pirate City training complex since early March.

“Being down in Bradenton, it can get really monotonous living in Pirate City and being in the same place every day,” he said.

“Staying strong mentally and being able to get through each day knowing it could work out in the end really helps you.”

Meyer has been working on body control, being able to stay back and — as he puts it — “use my arm and just get my body in a good position to throw the ball.”

He’s also tinkered with a new pitch: A split-fingered fastball. That process began in extended spring training under the tutelage of former big-league pitcher Scott Elarton.

“That is really fun to throw when I throw it right,” Meyer said. “When I don’t throw it right, it kind of goes behind people. I’ve been enjoying working on that.”

He recalls talking with Elarton after one inning of a spring game. Meyer didn’t throw the split-fingered pitch because he didn’t need to.

“The next two innings, throw fastball-splitter, fastball-splitter,” Elarton said.

“It made it a lot more interesting and fun being out there,” Meyer said. “It’s getting more comfortable. My knuckles don’t hurt as much from splitting my fingers so far. It’s getting a lot better.”

Meyer made his 2017 Black Bears debut in Tuesday’s 3-1, loss to Mahoning Valley. He worked a scoreless inning of relief, yielding one hit while striking out one and walking none.

He insists he’s in a better place now than he was a year ago.

“Last year coming in, I was working on something but also trying to earn a spot,” he said. “This year, I kind of know what I’m doing, and I have a better feel for my body. I know what to do this year to get the best out of myself.”

One thing he vows not to do is put pressure on himself to perform. That’s something he’s shared with his new teammates.

“You’ve shown you can perform,” Meyer said. “Come here and do your work. You just have to come here and do your best. That’s what the Pirates are looking for.”

Todd Murray is a sports reporter for The Dominion Post. Write to him at