Tyler Mahle watched his older brother Greg pitch for Tijuana against the Los Angeles Dodgers on one of the back fields in Glendale earlier this week.
Greg was released by the Los Angeles Angels in October. Tyler is competing to avoid a similar fate with the Reds after a season he’d like to forget.
Mahle, 25, is competing for a spot in the starting rotation with Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer and left-hander Wade Miley. It is eerily similar to last spring. Mahle was the “sixth” starter last season but ended up breaking camp with the Reds when Alex Wood couldn’t pitch with a back ailment.
“There is nothing I can do but go out there and pitch,” Mahle said. “I definitely like competition. It’s fun. That’s all I’ve known to this point. I’ve never had a guaranteed spot anywhere. Even in the minor leagues you’re fighting to make the next step. If you’re in Double A, you want to make it to Triple A.”
Things worked in Mahle’s favor last season but his season was not pretty statistically. He had a 3-12 record with a 5.14 ERA in 25 starts.
“I had a (crappy) year last year,” Mahle said. “They’re not going to give me a ton of chances. They made the move to get a veteran arm in here (Miley). You can’t blame them.”
Big innings and two-out hits were Mahle’s downfall in many games.
“I didn’t have an out pitch,” he said. “A lot of time when I got hurt, it was two strikes. I would try to throw a breaking ball under the zone. I just didn’t have that pitch. It hurt me over and over again. I started throwing a slider and curve. The curve was the one I couldn’t get under the zone. I’m able to do that with the slider. Until the curve can get to where it starts in the same plane and goes under the zone. I will go with the slider.”
If he can’t crack the starting rotation, Mahle would very much like a bullpen job. He is even willing to clean up in hopeless losses when the team is way behind. The lowest man in the bullpen gets that assignment.
“Any chance I can get to pitch in the Major Leagues, I would be more than happy with,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s a starter or its a cleanup guy.”
With two weeks left in spring training, Mahle is pleased with his progress. The results may say otherwise. He has pitched in two Cactus League games so far. In a total of 4 2/3 innings, Mahle has given up six runs on five hits and four walks. He has five strikeouts.
“My outings have been just OK,” Mahle said. “I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now. It comes down to making pitches and throwing the right pitches. Whatever you throw you want to throw it with full conviction.”
Reds manager David Bell is on the same page.
“I really like what I’m seeing from Tyler,” Bell said. “Not only in the games but watching his bullpen sessions. I really like his velocity The breaking ball, the slider, has been really sharp. There was one game the results weren’t great everything has developed and continued to get better. He looks like he’s in good shape. He looks strong.”
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