Tyler Mahle has not pitched well in three career starts against the St. Louis Cardinals. He allowed three earned runs in each of the three starts he made against them last summer during the 60-game season, and his ERA after eight starts is 5.45.
Mahle will get a chance to improve those numbers in the second game of the 2021 season. He starts the 4:10 p.m. game Saturday against three-time All-Star Adam Wainwright.
“They’re going to be tough,” Mahle said. “They’ve got a good lineup. I know for me personally, it’s always a tough battle facing them. It seems like it’s always a grind. It should be a fun series to see where we’re both at.”
Mahle made two starts in spring training. He said he had one good outing and one bad outing. He pitched two scoreless innings March 11 against the Chicago White Sox and then gave up five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, allowing three home runs, on March 21 against the Chicago Cubs.
“I felt good, and I still feel good,” Mahle said. “I made it through spring training. I’m happy with where I’m at. It was a good spring.”
Mahle posted the best numbers of his career last season. He was 2-2 with a 3.59 ERA in nine starts. He credited pitching coaches Derek Johnson and Caleb Cotham for helping resurrect his career. In baseball’s last full season, he was 3-12 with a 5.14 ERA in 23 starts.
“I was not in a good place,” Mahle said. “They totally transformed me into the pitcher I am now. There’s still a lot of work to be done for sure. They probably saved my career.”
Ready to go: Joey Votto made his 13th straight Opening Day start at first base. The Reds activated him from the injured list before the game. He was sidelined by a positive COVID-19 test in March but made three appearances in the final days of spring training.
“It’s always an honor,” Votto said. “Sometimes I think I take it for granted. I actually slept through an Opening Day introduction one year. I got that walk-off hit that day, though. With each passing year, I realize how special it is.”
Votto’s status was up in the air until Thursday. He was more concerned about his conditioning than the skill component when it came to the decision to play.
“I bounced back pretty well,” Votto said. “I ran well yesterday. I ran well when we were conditioning in Arizona. That was pretty much it. It was just about making sure I had my lungs. We play every day. I have to be ready to play every day.”
Fans return: The first fans in line outside Great American Ball Park on Opening Day were Stacey and Ken Truesdell, of Cincinnati, who have been season-ticket holders for five years. They arrived at 11:30 a.m.
Season-ticket holders entered the gates at 2:10 p.m., and all other ticket holders were let in 30 minutes later.
“It’s awesome,” Stacey said. “We love the Reds.”
“We missed it last year,” Ken said.
Final decisions: The Reds optioned infielder Max Schrock and outfielder Mark Payton to the alternate training site in Mason hours before the opener.
One of the last players to make the roster was infielder Alex Blandino, who last played in the big leagues in 2019 when he hit .250 in 23 games. Blandino hit .311 (14 for 45) in 21 games in spring training.
“I think we’re all really happy for Alex,” manager David Bell said. “Talk about earning it. He’s done everything right. It hasn’t been easy for him. He hasn’t gotten the opportunity when he’s probably deserved it. He’s been overlooked a few times by me. He just stayed with it. He’s really low maintenance. He’s worked and worked and proven over and over he’s a good baseball player. He’s a good hitter. He hits tough pitches. He’s versatile and can play multiple positions.”
Other moves: The Reds placed outfielder Shogo Akiyama and pitchers Sonny Gray and Michael Lorenzen on the 10-day injured list Thursday and designated pitcher Edgar Garcia for assignment.