- Gary Schatz Contributing Writer
Former Dayton Dragons pitcher Tyler Mahle hopes to continue his fast rise to the majors this spring.
Reds manager Bryan Price has identified the 23-year-old right-hander as one of four who will compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
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Mahle started the 2017 season at Double-A Penscola and finished it in Cincinnati. He made his Reds debut in August and finished 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA in four big-league starts.
“This year I have a chance to make the team out of spring training,” Mahle said. “My change-up and breaking ball are getting better with repetition. … I’m not working on anything in particular. If I had to pick one thing it would be my off-speed pitches.”
Price just wants to see him pitch well and see how things shake out.
“He did very well in his four starts,” Price said. “We challenged Tyler to improve his slider and change-up. At some point this season he will help us. If it is at the start of the season, that’s even better.”
Mahle, a seventh-round draft pick in 2013 out of Wesminster High School in California, caught the eye of Price during his first invitation to spring training last year.
Mahle made his first appearance in an early Cactus League game against the Arizona Diamondbacks and gave up a three-run homer. Price talked to him after the inning and knew then that Mahle was a major-league pitcher.
“Tyler gives up a ground ball base hit. There is a pop up that we don’t catch, then a three-run homer,” Price said that day. “I looked at him, the body, the composure, the delivery, the stuff, he looks like a big leaguer. I know he would have liked to have different results.”
The Reds sent him to minor league camp and Mahle made a prophet out of Price.
Mahle started the season at Pensacola and made 14 starts. He was 7-3 with a 1.59 ERA, including a perfect game against Mobile on April 22. Two months later he was promoted to Louisville and went 3-4 at Triple A with a 2.73 ERA.
In his Reds debut Aug. 27, Mahle pitched five innings in a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh. He made three more starts and earned a win by pitching the first five innings of a 6-0 shutout of St. Louis.
Mahle led the Reds’ farm system in ERA. He was fourth in strikeouts and tied for third with 10 wins.
This spring Mahle fully intends to win a spot on the team against tough competition.
“(The rotation is) pretty packed but I think I have a better shot,” he said. “I’m going to go about it the same way I did last year. All I can control is doing my thing on the mound.”
Mahle was 13-8 with a 2.43 ERA in 26 starts with the Dragons in 2015. He was a Midwest League All-Star that season and won the Chief Bender Award as the Reds’ minor league player of the year.