Time spent with Volquez pays off for Mendez

Rangers lefty K's 6 in 2 1/3 to earn win, learned from vet during rehab

September 8th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- This is why the Rangers were happy that stuck around for the whole season. This is why it’s valuable to have a sage veteran for young players to go to, even if he isn’t able to pitch.

Rangers left-hander missed most of this season with a sprained elbow ligament, and much of his down time was spent doing rehab work at the Surprise, Ariz., training facility.

That gave him plenty of time to bond with Volquez, who had to log his own rehab time there dealing with his right elbow issues. Mendez took full advantage of it, and the Rangers saw a glimpse of the results in their 9-4 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night at Camden Yards.

Mendez, the second of six relievers used by the Rangers on the night, struck out six of eight batters faced to get the win in his first appearance since being called up on Thursday.

“I’m just glad to be back and helping the team,” Mendez said. “It’s a chance to do the best that I can, and you see the results. I feel good with that outing.”

The Rangers took control of this game early, scoring six runs in the top of the first inning. Rougned Odor capped the rally with a three-run homer.

They opened with right-hander , who allowed three runs (one earned) in the first inning before settling down a little bit. Mendez took over with two on and two out in the third, and he struck out Mason Williams to end the threat. He gave up a home run to Rio Ruiz to open the fourth, but struck out the next two hitters and got Jonathan Villar to ground out. Mendez then struck out Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. to end his night.

“Geez, nobody could touch him, nobody was making contact with him,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “So six strikeouts in 2 1/3 is pretty impressive. I thought the way the ball was coming out of his hand -- and he's always had the plus changeup -- but when he's throwing 94-95 [mph] from the left side with good command and a plus changeup, it presents a little bit of an issue as a hitter. So that's very encouraging to see.”

Mendez has always been able to throw hard, and his changeup has always been considered a plus pitch. The trick has been to put the two together along with a slider. Fastball command has been the biggest issue, but that’s just one of many subjects that Mendez and Volquez covered during their time in Arizona.

“He was always talking to me about the way he pitched in his career,” Mendez said. “I’ve always had a good changeup, and he had a good changeup. He’s talked to me a lot about using the fastball and the changeup together. Right now, that’s what I’m doing. I’m throwing my fastball early in counts, and then mixing the changeup and the slider. I feel my fastball is going to get better.”

That was an effective combination on Saturday night.

“Mendez has a great arm from the left side,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He punched out six in 2 1/3. He’s got good stuff, mid-90s fastball. It was nice to see Rio take him deep, but besides that we really didn’t do anything off him. It’s a good arm."

The master showed he can still do it himself. Volquez closed out the game with a scoreless inning in the ninth, just as Jeffrey Springs, Adrian Sampson and Shawn Kelley did before him after Mendez was finished.