Formerly a catcher, Reno Aces Wyatt Mathisen initially was cool about playing at the hot corner.
“When I first moved to third, I wasn’t expecting every ball to come my way,” he said. “But as I’ve gotten older, I realize we can always turn on one.”
Now in Reno, Mathisen is fitting third base like a glove, showcasing quickness and a strong arm in his first season with the Aces. The rangy third baseman went 0-for-2 with a run in the Aces’ 6-2 victory — their fourth straight — over the Fresno Grizzlies on Sunday at Greater Nevada Field.
He got the jersey dirty diving to his left and throwing out Grizzlies second baseman Matt Reynolds from his knees in the top of the fourth inning.
Mathisen. 25, has made the necessary adjustments all around the infield. He has 11 starts at third and he slots in at second base when Kevin Cron takes hold of the hot corner. Mathisen has five starts at second base this season.
“No matter where you play It’s really about being prepared,” he said. “Every pitch can come your way so you have to expect it’s coming your way and make a play. You have to be quick on your toes.”
Before his permanent role at third base, Mathisen was the starting catcher at Calallen High School located in Corpus Christi, Texas. When he wasn’t behind the dish, Mathisen was slotted in as the Wildcats’ starting pitcher, sporting a 1.06 ERA with 11 wins in his senior season.
Mathisen’s traits behind the plate and on the mound made him a second-round selection (69th overall) in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was moved to third baseman in the middle of the 2014 season and has stuck ever since.
The versatile infielder admits he had a few mental errors at first, but Mathisen adjusted to the new defensive language.
“It was a bit foreign to me at first,” he said. “The first three balls that were hit to me in a game I bent on both knees like I was catching in spring training. It definitely took some adjusting, for sure.”
Despite his early struggles at the hotbox, Mathisen never thought of going back behind the plate.
“I didn’t miss it at all,” he said. “(Catching) put a lot of wear and tear on my body. I took my mind off the offensive side of the game and I couldn’t make those adjustments at the plate.”
Along with his defensive prowess, Mathisen has strung together a solid home stand offensively.
Mathisen is 4-for-9 with two runs and three RBIS in three games against the Grizzlies during the five-game series. He went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the Aces’ come-from-behind 14-13 victory over Fresno on April 27.
He has no plans of cooling down with four games remaining of the nine-game homestand.
“When I’m in a groove, I try to stay consistent,” he said. “I just try to play the heater and be aggressive and I tend to see the ball a lot better.”
Mathisen spent seven seasons in the Pirates’ minor league system. Not none much for his power, He batted .248 with a career-high nine homers and 45 RBIs with Triple-A Indianapolis last season. He signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Nov. 12.
Coming from the International League, Mathisen has found a new infield partner in crime-fighting would-be base stealers in the Pacific Coast League, shortstop Kelby Tomlinson.
Tomlinson has taken notice of Mathisen’s impressive play so far this season, a crucial component of executing the 5-4-3 double play.
“He’s been really good defensively,” he said. “Wyatt has this ability to turn two (outs) pretty quickly and get the ball out of his hands in an instant.”
Locastro, Leyba go back-to-back in Aces win
Back-to-back jacks from Tim Locastro and Domingo Leyba in the first inning propelled Reno to its ninth win on the season.
The Aces’ four-straight wins is the longest streak of the young season the first time this season. They also won their first home series of the year.
Locastro, 26, is batting .521 with four homers, 10 RBIs and 10 runs during the five-game home stand against the Grizzlies. His solo shot today hit the scoreboard in left-center field.
The switch-hitting Leyba launched his second round-tripper of the year over the Reno bullpen in right field. The Dominican Republic native is batting .321. He has appeared in two-straight games at shortstop after being out of the starting lineup since April 21.
Reno tallied nine hits. Andrew Aplin went a perfect 3-for-3 with a double and RBI. Aplin hit the walk-off grand slam to cap-off a nine-run inning in yesterday’s victory. Alberto Rosario went 1-for-2.
Starting pitcher Anthony Vasquez pitched six solid innings for his first win this year in front of a season-high attendance of 4,782. The southpaw surrendered one unearned run on three hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
Vasquez pounded the zone with a mid-80s to low-90s fastball that painted the corners, but his deceptive changeup tied batters up at the hands to keep balls in the infield.
Home runs from Locastro and Leyba put Reno up 2-1 in the first inning. The Aces plated three more runs in the bottom of the second. Raudy Read’s homer to left-center in the seventh trimmed Fresno’s deficit. Reno responded with another run in the bottom half of that same frame.
Aces’ closer Jimmie Sherfy sealed the four-run lead in the ninth.
Duplantier Heads Back to the Desert: Dbacks’ top pitching prospect Jon Duplantier was optioned to the Diamondbacks. Right-hander Matt Koch was designated for assignment. Duplantier, 24, sported a 1.04 ERA with eight strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched with the Aces. The right-hander with a funky delivery has been called up by Arizona twice this season.
Notes: Kevin Cron has six homers and 15 RBIS over his last five games. … The Aces improved to third place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Division, a half-game up on the Tacoma Rainiers. … Reno is 6-5 at home this season compared to 3-9 on the road.
On Deck: The Aces, 9-14, face the Las Vegas Aviators for the first time this season in a four-game series. Las Vegas, Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, is 15-9 on the year following a 10-9 loss to El Paso on Sunday, April 28. Starting pitchers have not been announced.
— Isaiah Burrows