How did the D-backs’ Cristian Mena fare in his MLB debut against the Dodgers?

How did the D-backs’ Cristian Mena fare in his MLB debut against the Dodgers?

How did the D-backs’ Cristian Mena fare in his MLB debut against the Dodgers?

LOS ANGELES — Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Cristian Mena received a rude welcome to the major leagues from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.

Mena had a tough first assignment coming in as a 21-year-old from Triple-A Reno to replace the injured Jordan Montgomery, and the Dodgers put four runs on the board before he recorded his first out.

That’s where the scoring stopped, but Mena recorded nine outs before Arizona turned to the bullpen.

His start was innocent enough, as he got Shohei Ohtani (boy, does he go deep!) to ground out with a sinker. The ball found a gap and Mena put himself in danger by walking Will Smith. On a 2-0 fastball, Freddie Freeman homered to right field. Teoscar Hernandez followed by hitting a slider off the inside edge over the left field wall for a 4-1 lead.

D-backs farm director Shaun Larkin said Arizona Sports Heading into the game, the key for Mena would be to consistently take the lead to take advantage of his effective secondary shots. Mena had fallen behind on three consecutive occasions and that cost him dearly.

But the prospect retired six straight batters to get through the first and second innings, striking out Chris Taylor and Ohtani. His first career strikeout of Taylor came on a 96 mph homer off the outside corner.

Mena struck out Ohtani on a curveball, perhaps his best pitch.

Freeman managed a scoreless third inning, but the ship was rocky. He walked two and advanced the runners on a balk. Right fielder Jake McCarthy saved the day by throwing out Freeman at the plate on a potential sacrifice fly to end the inning.

Mena’s final line: 3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 70 pitches

In the process, he produced 10 strikeouts, proving he has a secondary arsenal. The problem was a lack of strikes on just 40 of 70 pitches. Against elite hitters on the other side, Mena put himself in tough situations.

However, his offense carried him through and he exited the game in favor of Bryce Jarvis with a 5-4 lead.

Mena became the fifth-youngest D-backs pitcher to start a game and the youngest since Tyler Skaggs in 2012.

Manager Torey Lovullo said he took Mena’s temperature before the game and was impressed, saying he felt like he was talking to a 30-year-old man.

“Follow the game plan, hit your pitches, walk the ball around the zone, don’t be predictable.” Lovullo spoke before the match about the keys to a successful debut“He’s a very smart pitcher and he knows what he needs to do to be successful. I just don’t want him to get overwhelmed at the moment… I think he won’t be and he’ll find his rhythm and settle in.”

Lovullo opted not to use left-hander Joe Mantiply as a starter to ease Mena into the game and allow the rookie to maintain his typical routine.

Mena, the third-ranked pitcher in Arizona’s farm system, had a 4.90 ERA with Triple-A Reno before his call-up and is the Pacific Coast League leader in strikeouts.

Catch the rest of the game in action on 98.7 and the Arizona Sports app.