Kolton Mahoney found out that he was starting Wednesday's game about 24 hours before first pitch, but he was ready to go. In fact, a few days ago he watched video of a Hall of Famer who threw a perfect game this decade that gave the Minor League veteran some inspiration.
"[Pitching coach] Bruce Walton said I needed to pitch instead of throwing," Mahoney said. "He showed me videos of guys that he's worked with, Roy Halladay being one of them. ... I told him tonight I felt like Roy Halladay with low pitches, and I was getting guys to swing and miss. I know I'm far from Roy Halladay, but I told him I felt like it tonight."
The Marlins right-hander got Halladay-style results, too, tossing six perfect innings and striking out five, but the Jumbo Shrimp fell to the Birmingham Barons, 1-0, on Wednesday at Regions Field.
Video: Mahoney tosses six perfect for Jacksonville
Pitching strictly out of the bullpen this season after making 12 starts between Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans last year, Mahoney has been a valuable relief arm for the Jumbo Shrimp with a 3.94 ERA and 27 strikeouts across 29 2/3 innings. Right before the team's bus ride Tuesday, 17th-ranked Marlins prospect Jordan Yamamoto got the call to make his Major League debut, and Mahoney soon learned he'd be thrown into starter duty.
Although it'd been 10 months since he'd opened a regular-season game, he wasn't at all frazzled by the change of pace.
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"It wasn't a shock or surprise, because I hadn't pitched in a couple of days and I'm usually the long guy most of the time," Mahoney said. "I know I did this last year too, so it's pretty familiar to me. ... It's not a big deal to me. I've always told myself to be ready and stay ready. If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready. When things like Minor League Baseball -- I know how crazy it is -- there's always movement and things happening. So I just always try to prepare myself the same every game."
In watching those videos and having discussions with Walton, Mahoney made some tweaks with his arm angle to improve his sinker and get more movement on his stuff, rather than focusing on throwing with more velocity as he had done in his previous relief outings. Over his last 9 1/3 innings, he's allowed two hits without yielding a run.
"We also worked on some things to make my sinker more effective, dropping my arm a bit to get the arm slot back so it has that sink and run that I like. It's very effective to get guys out," Mahoney said. "Just changing speeds, and just had a good conversation with that. And just showing Roy Halladay, he's one of the best pitchers ever."
In his last start on Aug. 3, the 27-year-old also went six innings, allowing two runs on three hits while throwing 84 pitches. He was even more efficient against the Barons, throwing 38 of 58 pitches for strikes. He had only two three-ball counts and recorded three groundouts and seven flyouts.
When working in relief, Mahoney generally needs about 10-12 pitches to get loose and ready for game action. But on Wednesday, he mistimed his warmups.
"I started throwing early and I got off the mound and I asked [Walton] how much time I had and he's like, 'You still have 15 minutes,'" the hurler said. "I was starting way too early. And I literally started throwing about five minutes before the game on the mound just because I hadn't thrown many pitches. And my pitches down there were very good, so I knew I had what I needed."
In his longest outing of the year, Mahoney quickly found his groove and struck out sixth-ranked White Sox prospect Luis Alexander Basabe swinging to end an 11-pitch first. As the game wore on, his teammates avoided talking to him, bringing to mind the time he tossed a no-hitter for Brigham Young University against Nicholls State five years ago.
But the baseball superstition didn't affect him, as Mahoney only got better as the game went on. He needed only 13 pitches to set down the last six batters he faced. Mahoney was particularly sharp in his final inning, sending the Barons back onto the field on four pitches. When he walked in on the far side of the visitors' dugout, he spotted Walton chatting with manager Kevin Randel, which meant he was probably exiting the game.
"I knew I hadn't let anybody on base yet," he said. "I tried walking past them, because I know when they're talking, they're like, 'Oh, his pitch count is coming up.' I don't have as many pitches as a starter right now. ... My teammates were like, 'Turn around,' and I said, 'I know who's behind me; I don't want to turn around. I know he's going to try to take me out of the game.'
"[Randel] has his hand out for the handshake, saying, 'Good job, you're done.' I kind of looked at it for a second and just shook my head. I was telling myself I didn't want to come out of the game. He said, 'You've got to shake my hand right now.' And I'm like, 'Dang it, I know I do.'"
2019 MiLB include
The 2015 16th-round pick lowered his ERA to 3.28 with the scoreless gem. He has not yielded a run in nine of 17 outings.
"I'm just going to take it and approach it the same way," Mahoney said of moving forward. "It's just attacking the hitters and keep changing speeds. That's been working for me very well."
With the game scoreless in the eighth, No. 9 White Sox prospect Luis Gonzalez delivered an RBI single to produce the only run on the Barons' lone hit.
Luis Martinez (3-1) struck out two in a perfect eighth to earn the victory. No. 15 Chicago prospect Zack Burdi fanned one in a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.