Nearly a month after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, Scioto County native Patrick Riehl has been working hard improving his game to continue living his dream of being a professional baseball player.
The former Lucasville Valley Indian and Chillicothe Paint was drafted by the Reds during the 2016 amateur draft last month and spent a few days in Goodyear, Arizona, the MLB Spring Training home for the Reds, with other draftees. Riehl was then sent up to Billings, Montana to play for the Mustangs, a Reds rookie-ball affiliate.
Since the beginning of the Mustangs season, Riehl has made seven appearances in his young professional career.
In his appearances, Riehl has picked up two wins and got his first save. He has totaled 13.1 innings in seven games played in thus far. Riehl has allowed three runs in that time, off nine hits. He has also limited walks, only issuing three so far this year.
The new Mustangs pitcher is also averaging just over one strikeout for every inning he has pitched, totalling 15 strikeouts, including one performance Friday, July 1, 2016, where he fanned four batters over three innings.
During the few days he spent in Goodyear, Riehl was introduced to the Reds staff as the draftees filled out paperwork and underwent physicals.
“It was awesome,” Riehl said. “It was hot, but it was fun. I really enjoyed being introduced to the whole staff. I got to get a picture with Walt Jocketty and got to walk around the whole complex.”
Aside from Jocketty, Riehl also was able to meet Barry Larkin, who he said he had wanted to meet since he was a little kid growing up in southern Ohio.
“It was a surreal experience just walking around and working out and getting my feet wet,” Riehl said.
Three days after arriving in Goodyear, Riehl was sent to Billings, where he was told he would be playing rookie-ball.
A few days after arriving in Montana, Riehl and the rest of the Mustangs opened up their season. Riehl didn’t have to wait long to see his first action as a professional baseball player, as he pitched one and one-third innings in the season opener.
The whole experience was hard to describe for Riehl. He said his mind was racing and his adrenaline was rushing.
“I think just calming down and going back to normal was the toughest part,” Riehl said.
In the June 17 opener, Riehl was called to enter the game in the top of the fifth inning, relieving fellow Mustang, Antonio Santillan. He faced five batters in his professional debut, throwing a total of 20 pitches, 11 of which were strikes.
One of the biggest adjustments Riehl had to make was realizing he just needed to pitch.
“The main thing for me was just to pitch,” Riehl said. “To not worry about the situation and not worry about what’s going on or worry about who I am facing.”
Instead, Riehl just thought about his next pitch and throwing the ball to the best of his ability.
It wouldn’t be until his fifth appearance that Riehl gave up his first earned run, and only three total over seven appearances, bringing his earned run average (ERA) to 2.03.
Aside from on-field appearances, Riehl said he has enjoyed working with the coaching staff in Billings, especially his time with the Mustangs pitching coach Seth Etherton.
“He has been working with me quite a bit,” Riehl said. “He’s been working on my mechanics and other stuff and has really helped me improve my consistency. He has helped me out tremendously with that and with my control and my command.”
Command and control are essential attributes for pitchers, and are two very different things that could lead to success for a player, according to Dean Schuler, Cincinnati Reds Scout and former baseball coach at Valley High School.
When speaking with Riehl recently, Schuler said the young pitcher told him the thing he was most impressed with was the improvement he has seen in his command and control, thanks to the Billings pitching coach.
“Command and control are two different things,” Schuler said. “You can have control and throw strikes, but when you have command, you’re hitting spots.”
During their conversation, Riehl told Schuler his command has improved greatly during his short time with Billings.
“He’s having a good time and he’s becoming very confident,” Schuler said. “He’s changing speed and hitting spots. He’s been having quite a bit of success.”
Schuler also noted the amount of innings Riehl is being allowed to throw, which have increased from one inning during his first few appearances, which have increased to right around three innings in his last two appearances.
“I think they’re trying to find out where he’s going to fit in best,” Schuler said. “They started him out an inning here and an inning there and now they’ve extended his innings, so I would think they might be trying to move him to a middle guy.”
Riehl has enjoyed his time so far in Billings and is looking forward to being able to continue to play baseball.
“Just playing, that’s all I want to do,” Riehl said. “I just want to get out there and play and have fun. It’s awesome just to be able to wake up and go to the ballpark and be able to play the game. That’s the thing I want to do. Of course I’d love to get moved up, but the main thing is just to play. I love playing. It doesn’t bother me where I’m playing, because I’m still getting paid to play baseball. That’s a whole lot better than a lot of people got it.”
“The things I’ve gotten from conversations with him, is he’s really enjoying himself and is really enjoying the pitching coach,” Schuler said. “All it comes down to is he just has to go to work every day and do what he needs to do and see where it takes him.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1971, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.