Here was Tyler Mahle, in just the second start of his Double-A baseball career for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, staring straight into the evil eyes of a bases-loaded jam last Wednesday night.
Mahle had already escaped one in the third inning, but to expect the 21-year-old star prospect of the Cincinnati Reds to escape a second jam was like asking a gambler to hit the jackpot twice in one day.
Other pitchers might have crumbled under the pressure, especially when you consider the batter was Daniel Palka, who has crushed 19 home runs this season.
But Mahle, unfazed by who he was up against, got Palka to strike out, ending the threat to help Pensacola go on to earn a 3-0 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
The thing about Mahle is that he plays with unbelievable confidence. He is 2-0 since his promotion from High-A Daytona last month and 10-3 overall in 2016. Not to mention he has 16 strikeouts in two games in Pensacola, recording eight in each of his two Southern League starts.
“I know I have good stuff. I trust myself, my catcher and the defense,” Mahle said. “I’m pretty confident when I go on the mound.”
There is supposed to be a difference between High-A and Double-A baseball, and for a lot of players, it’s a lesson they learn the hard way.
But Mahle, who went straight to the pros out of high school in California, isn’t most players. He has more than lived up to the expectations placed on his shoulders when he was taken in the seventh round by the Reds in the 2013 draft.
“The hitters are more selective up here. They know what they want to hit and what to look for, but I trust myself that I’m going to throw strikes,” Mahle said. “I don’t think it’s a huge difference between the two levels, but a batter is going to make you pay if you aren’t on top of your game.”
Read more in the July 7 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.