Meyer photo
Dan Meyer

PHILADELPHIA - Ten years ago Dan Meyer would have been rooting for Chase Utley.

On Monday night, he stood 60 feet, 6 inches away determined not to let the Phillies' star reach base.

Meyer, a 1999 Kingsway Regional graduate, now pitches for the Florida Marlins. The left-hander retired Utley on a slow groundball to third base in the seventh inning.

It was one of the key outs in the Marlins' 5-3 win before 45,186 fans at Citizens Bank Park.

Meyer was born in Woodbury in 1981. He grew up a Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers fan. Monday was the first time he pitched in Philadelphia as a professional.

"I couldn't have asked for a better homecoming," Meyer said. "I had 15 people in the family section and probably another 50 people come out on their own to see me."

Meyer's friends made their presence known. They stood in Ashburn Alley above the Marlins' bullpen.

"They were telling me how bad I am," Meyer said with a laugh.

Meyer's professional career has been a struggle.

There was a time when he was a big-time prospect.

A hard thrower, he dominated hitters in high school, helping Kingsway reach the South Jersey Group II final as a senior. Even Cape-Atlantic League players, who rarely met Kingsway, knew of him.

Meyer was 9-2 with 90 strikeouts in 97 innings in his final college season at James Madison University in Virginia.

The Braves selected him in the first round of the 2002 draft. He made his major league debut for the Braves in September 2004, pitching a scoreless inning against the New York Mets. But that December he was one of three players Atlanta traded to the Oakland A's for star pitcher Tim Hudson.

Things never worked out in Oakland.

But he underwent several shoulders surgeries with the A's. Meyer was 0-4 with a 7.48 ERA last season. The Marlins claimed him off waivers last November.

Meyer is currently the lone left-hander in the Marlins' bullpen. Florida manager Fred Sanchez called for him with two outs in the seventh inning.

The Marlins led 5-3 but Jimmy Rollins had just doubled off starter Chris Volstad.

Meyer sprinted from the bullpen to the mound.

His first pitch to Utley missed outside.

"I was little nervous running onto the field," he said. "It was packed house in Philly, my hometown. But after that first pitch, I settled down. I realized it's still 60 feet, 6 inches away. I just said, 'It's time to go to work.' "

Meyer then threw a cutter to Utley, who topped it toward third base. Wes Helms fielded it cleanly and threw Utley out to end the inning.

"I just wanted to keep the ball inside on him," Meyer said. "He's a good hitter. You want to keep it out of his wheelhouse because he can tie the game there."

Utley was the only batter Meyer faced. Such is the life of a lefty relief specialist.

Meyer seems to have a found a niche with the Marlins.

He has appeared in 22 games and thrown 19 innings, allowing six earned runs for a 2.25 ERA.

"It's weird," he said, "but from Day One I've just fit in here. It's a great bunch of guys here. I feel confident."

Meyer dressed in a hurry after the game. He was off to see family and friends.

Meyer threw just two pitches.

But that was enough to make him a hometown hero.

E-mail Michael McGarry:

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