CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds will step into the realm of the unusual Sunday afternoon when both pitcher and catcher make their major league debuts.
Tyler Mahle will pitch and Chad Wallach will catch against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And it will be the second time in a week that two sons of former major league players/managers will have their fathers in the stands to watch their debuts at Great American Ball Park.
Wallach’s father is Tim Wallach, a 17-year infielder, mostly with the Montreal Expos and now a coach for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly. And Mattingly gave Tim Wallach permission to come to Cincinnati Sunday to watch Chad.
When Reds pitcher Luke Farrell made his debut Wednesday, his dad, Boston manager John Farrell was sitting behind home plate after the Red Sox gave him permission to skip a game and watch his son pitch in his first major league game.
MAHLE IS THE LATEST REDS wunderkind pitcher, owner of a no-hitter when he pitched for the Class A Daytona Tortugas (he hit a batter or he would have had a perfect game). And he got the perfect game this year pitching for the Class AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
The 22-year-old seventh round draft pick in 2013 out of Newport Beach, Calif., spent a season at Class A Dayton and was 13-8 with 2.43 earned run average in 26 starts.
“Mahle is a great guy, an awesome guy and he is great to catch,” said Wallach, who has caught a few of Mahle’s minor-league games. “He makes it fun to catch. I caught his first three games this year when he was called up to Triple-A (Louisville) and I caught him last year in Double-A (Pensacola).
“He is a fastball, change-up, slider guy with a real good command of all of them. He throws in the mid-90s but his command is just as good with his fastball,” said Wallach. “It’s funny, though, he’ll pitch at different speeds with his fastball at times, then he’ll run it up at 95 to a guy. It’s impressive how he knows to to pitch guys at such a young age (22).
“And he lives on the edges of the plate,” Wallach added. “His demeanor? He is as calm as calm can be, although I’m sure he’ll be jacked up a little Sunday, just as I will.”
AND IT ISN’T LIKELY MAHLE will pitch a complete game, which means Wallach might have a re-union. He and Michael Lorenzen attended Cal State-Fullerton together, “And I caught Michael all three years. That would be awesome to catch him again to bring back some good memories.”
Manager Bryan Price only saw Mahle briefly last spring and despite him giving up a three-run home run in the first inning he pitched, Price was agog.
“He pitched an inning against the Diamondbacks,” said Price. “He came in and gave up a two-out, three-run home run to Fuentes. He pulled a pitch down-and-in. Even though he gave up that three-run homer, he stood out — the composure, presence, the command, body-type, arm action. And that was in one inning.
“I remember saying to (pitching coach) Mack Jenkins, ‘This guy may end up being one of our top pitching prospects,’ might rather quickly join that club of guys who compete for a spot on our club this year, not 2018 or 2019.”
WITH MAHLE’S INSERTION, the rotation is now Homer & The Rookies. Homer Bailey starts Wednesday against the New York Mets and his four compatriots are Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson and Tyler Mahle.
And things are looking up with the young guys, considering how Castillo, Romano and Stephenson have been so effective in their last two starts. That is exactly what Price wants to see.
“That’s how (the rotation) will be until we run out of innings with some of these guys,” said Price. “The difference-maker is to see the improvement they are making.
“The difference this year from 2016 is how you finish and what we see by way of improvement,” Price added. “This gives us an opportunity to say we had a really strong last two months of the year. We’re encouraged by what we have.
“We want to go to spring training knowing we have guys who have already made the team,” he said. “You are in bad place as a team when you go to spring training with six spots on your pitching staff that are open and the spots go to whomever has the best spring training. That’s not a good sign.”
Price’s goal, stated often lately, is to have total faith in a large group of pitchers, “To where they are penciled in to our rotation when we go to spring training instead of saying they have to have a competitive spring training in order to make the ball club.”
SOME NEARLY UNBELIEVABLE numbers surrounding Mahle’s Sunday start:
He will be the 29th pitcher used by the Reds this year. He will be the 15th different starting pitcher. He will be the 16th rookie pitcher. He will be the ninth rookie starter. He will be the 13th Reds player to make his major league debut and the 10th Reds pitcher to make his major league debut.