Price pleased with progress of young Reds starters

Reds starter Tyler Mahle prepares to pitch against the Cubs on Monday, April 2, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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Reds starter Tyler Mahle prepares to pitch against the Cubs on Monday, April 2, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Romano and Mahle strong in back-to-back games

Tyler Mahle didn’t need to throw six scoreless innings Monday against the Chicago Cubs to know he belongs in Cincinnati Reds rotation and that he can thrive as a rookie in the big leagues. He proved that in four starts last August and September.

“It gives me confidence,” Mahle said, “but I’m already pretty confident in my stuff — definitely from last year, seeing how my stuff played. My stuff only got better in the offseason, working on my changeup and slider. I’m pretty confident, and my team’s pretty confident.”

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Mahle became the first Reds starter this season to escape the first inning without allowing a run, and he followed with five more scoreless innings at Great American Ball Park, leading the Reds to a 1-0 victory, their first of the season.

Mahle allowed one hit and walked two. He struck out seven batters. The key inning was the first. He walked Ian Happ to lead off the game and hit the third batter of the inning, Anthony Rizzo. Mahle then struck out Wilson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber to strand runners at first and second.

“He was great,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “In the first inning, they made him throw some pitches. Happ grinds out an at-bat, and he ends up having to make some really big pitches in the first. He got his pitch count up over 20.”

A quick third inning — a strikeout and two line drives to right fielder Jesse Winker — helped Mahle last six innings.

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“That kind of saved his bacon with the pitch count,” Price said, “and he really took over and made a ton of good pitches with his fastball. He got into more of an attack mode after the first inning. The complementary pitches he’s worked on really hard with (pitching coach) Mack Jenkins — the changeup and slider — really came in handy today. It was a professional outing for the young man.”

Mahle , 23, delivered the second straight quality start by a member of the young starting rotation. Sal Romano, 24, allowed three earned runs on four hits in six innings Sunday in a 6-5 loss to the Nationals. Overall, the starting pitching has pleased Price.

“I’m really pleased with this group of young starters that we have here,” Price said. “The one thing that connects the group is they’re all willing to compete in the strike zone with their stuff. That makes a big difference for the defense and for our optimism moving forward in their ability to be key cogs in our rotation.”


THURSDAY’S GAME

Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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