Mahle had a rough first inning. He walked Manuel Margot on a close 3-2 pitch. He appeared to pick off Margot but was called for a balk. It ignited a two-run inning.
“He just missed a borderline 3-2 pitch, then hit a batter with a 1-2 slider,” Bryan Price said. “He got better with his fastball command. He was missing with the slider in the first inning off the corner. He was bringing it back over the plate. He got better with it and that was great. You’ve got to be pushed a little bit and he responded with four beautiful innings.”
It wasn’t so much the results but the progress Mahle made with his changeup and slider, two pitches the Reds’ asked him to improve.
Mahle pitched four scoreless innings after the first. He allowed one hit over the last four frames. He struck out six.
• The bench is another area of the team that Reds’ leadership would like to improve. Cliff Pennington, who is a viable option at shortstop, is one of the multi-positional players that are competing for jobs as spare parts.
Brandon Dixon, Alex Blandino, Rosell Herrera and Phil Gosselin are the others. Ben Revere and Phillip Ervin remain as possible fifth outfielders. Sebastian Elizalde makes a case as a good left-handed bat off the bench. All have played good defense and all but Pennington and Revere have found their hitting stroke.
“What really speaks better compared to where we’ve been in the past, is we’re having some real challenges to find our best bench,” Price said. “There are some really good players here. All of them can help us. That’s going to mean that we should feel comfortable with the bench during the regular season and feel like we have some depth at Triple A.”
Gosselin is an intriguing choice.
The 29-year old played in 256 big league games with Atlanta, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Texas. He is a .270 career hitter and .306 this spring. He has 132 pinch-hit appearances with a .244 batting average and one home run. Gosselin has played all four infield positions, mostly second base, left field and right field.