Matt Magill had never pitched in a spring training game before Saturday, but you wouldn’t have known that by the results: He and non-roster invitee Mark Lowe were the only two pitchers that didn’t allow a run in the Dodgers’ 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Magill entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning. He quickly surrendered an infield single when shortstop Dee Gordon couldn’t pick a hard grounder off his backhand, allowing a run to score (it was charged to Kelvin De La Cruz). Magill then struck out the next three batters he faced and induced a fly ball to end the eighth inning — the only 1-2-3 inning defensively for the Dodgers.
That doesn’t always mean much in spring training, but it was a good sign that Magill was calm. For the 23-year-old from Simi Valley, that was one of two keys.
“Just go out and work on my fastball command,” he said, “and work on not getting too hyped up for the first big-league experience.”
Magill was added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster over the winter. He earned the promotion with a stellar season at Double-A Chattanooga in which batters hit only .232 against Magill and struck out 168 times in 146 1/3 innings.
For Magill, that may have amounted to a hill of beans. He remembered spending exactly one day in the Dodgers’ major-league camp last year and he didn’t pitch in a game. That experience wasn’t nearly enough to calm his nerves about jumping to the big-league side for the first time this year.
“I wish I could’ve come over here (more) but it didn’t happen,” Magill said. “It’s not the physical stuff — it’s more mental.”
Specifically, he said, “just getting used to all the media and the level of play — everyone expects almost perfection. I think it’s huge for every player to go through.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said this was one change that he and members of the team’s front office decided to institute in the off-season. Several minor leaguers were called up to the major-league camp this week to take batting practice with the major-leaguers. It was a small dose of experience, but every bit helps.
“Everyone has an idea of what they’re doing,” Magill said. “Everyone has a purpose in their eyes. There’s no messing around. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work.”
In a best-case scenario, Magill will be ticketed to Triple-A for the first time in his career with a strong spring. The Dodgers have a surplus of starting pitchers, so Magill can take his time — starting now.
“It’s a stepping point,” he said of his first major-league spring training. “If you can do it here, you can do it in the major leagues.”