It’s been nearly three years since the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted pitcher Justin Meis in the 10th round (No. 283 overall) of the 2021 MLB Draft, but the euphoria has yet to wear off for the Bethel Park native, who played collegiately at Eastern Michigan.

Adding to the still-surreal feeling of being in the Pirates farm system was when he got to meet longtime broadcaster Greg Brown during spring training in Florida, when Meis attended the club’s minor league camp.

“Just super thankful,” he said. “Grew up a Pirates fan and now playing in the organization is pretty crazy, but I’m just trying to take it one game at a time.”

Meis, 24, begins the 2024 campaign at Double-A Altoona in a long-relief role.

Last year, he appeared in 29 games for the Curve, going 4-3 with a 4.55 ERA.

Meis started last season in the Curve’s rotation, but when his ERA read 6.86 after his first six starts, he shifted to the bullpen, where things began to stabilize.

While not immediate, Meis ended up thriving as a reliever, specializing as a multi-inning man.

He went on to post a 1.88 ERA over five relief outings and 14⅓ innings of work in July before producing an August ERA of 2.12.

Then, in September, Meis closed out the year with a 2.79 ERA over his final four appearances.

“I feel like it was kind of a tale of two seasons,” Meis said. “Struggled in the first half, made some adjustments physically and part of it was mentally making some adjustments. The second half, I thought was really good. Just trying to build off of that confidence to start the year here.”

Meis held opposing batters to a .155 average over the final three months of the season once he settled into his role coming out of the bullpen.

“I feel like I’m in a really good spot,” he said. “Last year ended on a really good note and I feel like I had a really good spring down in Florida. Body feels great. Mentally, I’m in a really good spot building off of last year, so I’m excited to get the year started.”

So far this year, through three appearances, Meis has been unable to replicate his solid end to 2023.

He’s pitched 6⅔ innings with a 5.40 ERA, seven strikeouts and three walks.

Granted, most of the damage done against him to date was in one outing April 9, when he allowed three runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning of work vs. the Harrisburg Senators.

Ultimately, Altoona is not the desired final stop on Meis’ mind as he continues to work his way through the Pirates’ minor-league system.

But a major locational perk of Altoona is its proximity to family members, who regularly make the trek out from Pittsburgh to watch Meis play.

“It’s been pretty cool,” Meis said. “(It’s) is like two hours from my house back home, so (my) family’s been up. They try to get up every time I throw. And then some friends that haven’t seen me play in a while, they’ll make the trip.”

Meis, although lesser-known than some of his other Curve teammates, such as Pirates top organizational prospects (per MLB Pipeline) Anthony Solometo (No. 4), Bubba Chandler (No. 5) and Braxton Ashcraft (No. 7), all of whom are fellow pitchers, has at least one major fan in Pittsburgh who’s not a family family member.

That would be Pirates rookie pitcher Jared Jones, who split time between Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis last year before a torrid spring training saw him make the club’s Opening Day roster with a spot in the starting rotation.

Jones, formerly the Pirates’ No. 3 prospect, forged a close friendship with Meis last year before being promoted to Indianapolis.

“He’s awesome. I lived with him last year in Altoona,” Jones said. “We hung out a lot during spring training, played video games together. He’s an awesome dude, an awesome guy to have around. I saw him during spring (training) and he was throwing pretty hard, 95-97 (mph). Him maintaining that, the sky’s the limit for him.”

Meis has higher aspirations than Double-A baseball but is guarding against losing sight of the present.

When it comes to his continued development, he knows he still has much to prove in order to convince Pirates management that a promotion is in order.

“The big thing for me is just continuing to build off of last year,” Meis said. “I feel like I’m in a really good spot. Pitches feel really good, I love it here, and hopefully by the end of the year, I can make a push up to (Triple-A Indianapolis). But that’s not something that’s on my mind right now.

“If I take it one day at a time, one pitch at a time – I know it sounds cliche – but when things were going well last year, that was my mindset: Take it one day at a time, and wherever the chips fall, they fall. Don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”

Justin Guerriero is a TribLive reporter covering the Penguins, Pirates and college sports. A Pittsburgh native, he is a Central Catholic and University of Colorado graduate. He joined the Trib in 2022 after covering the Colorado Buffaloes for Rivals and freelancing for the Denver Post. He can be reached at