Tyler Mondile knows he was just a thrower in high school, striking out overmatched batters with 90-plus mph fastballs and off-speed pitches they couldn’t time.
Last summer in Billings, Mont., on the Reds’ rookie league team his approach was similar. When he missed his spot it didn’t matter too much if it was in the middle of the plate. But it didn’t take long in the Midwest League for Mondile to realize that missing middle was something he couldn’t do and stay in the game.
Mondile, a sixth-round draft choice in 2016 out of a New Jersey high school, and his roommate Hunter Greene, the Reds No. 1 pick last year out of a Southern California high school, are learning this together. Mondile brought a 7.51 ERA into his start ninth start for the Dayton Dragons on Wednesday night. Greene will start Thursday night’s game with a 10.06 ERA.
“In high school we were that big dog,” Mondile said. “We could throw our 94-95 and miss middle and not get hit. And then here you throw that 94-95 and miss middle and it’s going to get hit because these guys can hit.”
Mondile didn’t make it through five innings until his sixth start when he gave up four runs. In his next start, he allowed four runs in six innings. Then this past Friday he pitched a seven-inning, one-hit shutout in the second game of a doubleheader. On Wednesday Mondile allowed six hits, two runs, struck out six and left after five innings with the score tied. The Dragons rallied with two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth for a 5-4 victory over Lake County.
“He was able to attack the hitters well, keep his tempo and have a good mound presence,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “That’s now three quality starts and tells me he’s learned a lot from earlier in the year.”
Tempo has been an important improvement for Mondile, who has has worked with pitching coach Seth Etherton to not let himself speed up when there are baserunners.
“I sometimes try to do too much,” Mondile said. “And now I’m just trying to stay relaxed, and I’ve done a pretty good job with that.”
Mondile also changed his delivery for the better when Reds minor-league pitching coordinator Tony Fossas watched him throw in between starts. Fossas noticed that when Mondile turned in his windup that he didn’t always put his back foot down in the same place. Now Mondile starts with his back foot already parallel with the rubber.
Mondile also added a slider to his repertoire last spring that he says has become his best pitch. About two weeks ago he changed his grip by moving a little higher on the seam. Mondile is also understanding pitch selection better with each start and he’s becoming a student of the game along with Greene.
“When we’re in the dugout we’re talking about hitter’s approaches,” Mondile said. “If he hits a pitch good, when the catcher comes in we usually ask what it was, where it was. But when we leave the field we tend not to talk about anything baseball.”
The Dragons rallied from a 2-0 deficit on Hendrik Clementina’s single in the second and an outfield error in the third. Down 4-2 the Dragons ran the bases hard and scored two unearned runs in the seventh, the first on a single by Leandro Santana and the second on a errant throw after Jose Garcia singled. Garcia rounded first and forced the shortstop, who had cut off throw from the outfield, to throw to first. The throw was wild and Santana scored from third.
“You’ve got play aggressive and put pressure on the defense and see what happens,” Bolivar said. “These guys are relentless.”
In the eighth, Stuart Fairchild doubled and John Sansone singled him home with the go-ahead run.
“He’s a gamer and a clutch hitter,” Bolivar said of Sansone. “He proved that last year and this year he keeps doing that.”