Written by: Shelly Verougstraete (@ShellyV_643)
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After spending nearly a month on the injured list with right shoulder soreness, Casey Mize’s return to Double-A action didn’t go as planned. However, the 22-year-old right hander was better than the stat line indicated.
From the moment Mize toed the rubber, the Richmond Flying Squirrels batters were very aggressive. In the very first at-bat in the bottom of the 1st inning, Mize threw a fastball at 90 mph which Johneshwy Fargas fouled off, then threw another 90 mph fastball low in the zone for a called strike. Way ahead in the count, Mize threw a changeup that stayed up in the zone. Fargas promptly laced it into the left-centerfield gap for a double.
The right-hander starts the next batter with an 85 mph changeup for a called strike, and Fargas steals third. Mize battles back and throws two fastballs around 93 mph, and Peter Maris goes down swinging.
In the next AB, Mize starts with a fastball inside to a right-handed batter (Jalen Miller). It was a good pitch, but Miller was able to get contact and it dribbled right in front of the plate. It looked like it was going to go foul but never did. Mize fielded the hit and smartly held onto the ball, knowing he didn’t have a chance to get a hustling Miller sprinting down the first base line.
With nobody retired and the leadoff hitter coming up, Mize tries to come inside with a fastball but hit Jacob Heyward to load the bases. The catcher and pitching coach come out and talk with Mize, trying to calm him down in the process. After the meeting, Mize decides to start Gio Brusa with an offspeed offering, but Brusa lines an 85 mph changeup to right field that scores Fargas and Miller.
After that double from Brusa, you could tell Mize was starting to get frustrated. The pitching coach must have seen the same thing I saw, and he went out to the mound to talk with him once again. After the second visit, Mize just missed with a first pitch 93 mph fastball, then gets Zach Houchins to foul off another fastball inside. Mize then missed with a slider away and followed with a changeup inside. Houchins was able to turn on the latter for a double that stayed just inside the left-field line.
Another two runs score. The pitching coach comes out for a third time as a reliever gets up the Erie bullpen. After the meeting, Mize comes out with his two fast fastballs, 93 and 95 mph respectively. He then throws another fastball away for a called strike. I loved how he went away with the third pitch. Ryan Howard was not expecting it as he shook his head after the called strike. Mize then misses his spot with the fastball as the catcher was set up on the outer half of the plate. Howard makes contact but hits it foul towards right field. Mize then goes up with the fastball before trying to sneak a changeup inside. Howard makes contact and hits the ball towards shortstop Daniel Pinero. Pinero fields the ball and attempts to throw to third, but Issac Paredes is charged with a missed catch error. Everybody’s safe.
Now pitching to the 8-hole, Jonah Arenado steps up to the plate and Mize throws an excellent first pitch fastball away for a swinging strike. He tries again with the same pitch but Arenado makes contact and gets a base hit down the right-field line. Another run scores. Can’t make this stuff up.
Alright, so we have base runners on first and second, and I can tell Mize is just not feeling it at this point. He goes first-pitch curveball followed by a changeup away to all-namer Hamlet Marte. The runner on second (Howard) realizes that Mize is not paying any attention to him. As Mize is beginning to deliver his third pitch, he sees the huge lead Ryan Howard has on second and misses high and inside as Howard steals third base. After the steal, he tries to go away with offspeed but (you guessed it) Marte makes contact and hits it right up the middle. Mize almost snags the ball but it goes right underneath his glove and rolls up-the-middle and into center field. Another hit. Another run scores.
Mize takes a huge sigh and just shakes his head. He is not pitching poorly. There have been a few missed pitches, sure (especially with the changeup), but he is getting BABIP’d to absolute death.
The first batter, Johneshwy Fargas, comes up to the plate again. Mize promptly throws three straight balls just outside the plate. The right-hander then battles back with three straight strikes and gets Fargas swinging with another high changeup.
The pitching coach comes out one last time as Mize had finally hit his pitch count. He walked off the mound and just shakes his head as he walks to the dugout. His final line ended up being 0.2 IP and 30 pitches (22 of which were strikes), six hits, five earned runs, two strikeouts and zero walks (one HBP).
Being that is was 100+ degrees at the park, I was a bit sad that I wasn’t able to see Great Casey Mize (trademark pending), but I still liked what little I saw. Was it perfect? Obviously not. Statistically, it will undoubtedly go-down as one of the right-hander’s worst outings in his minor league career. But that’s not the whole story here. Mize was pounding the zone, and the Flying Squirrels benefitted from being very aggressive. I loved Mize’s mechanics, they are smooth and easy.
What is interesting (troubling?) is Mize’s trouble with Richmond.
I know this is obviously a small sample, but perhaps Mize struggles when the opposition commits to an aggressive approach with pitches in the zone. It will be interesting to see how Mize adjusts when faced with similar offensive game plans in the near future.
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Rich Hundley III and The Trentonian