Unplugged by design, Detroit Tigers’ Mason Englert comes through in first big spot in MLB

Detroit Free Press

HOUSTON — After pitching brilliantly against the Astros on Monday night.

After shoving for three innings, helping to put the Detroit Tigers in position for a dramatic 7-6 victory in the 11th inning.

After looking unfazed in just his second MLB game.

Mason Englert didn’t hear a word from friends or family.

Didn’t get a single text — or at least, not one that he read.

And he didn’t get to see any messages on social media.

Almost by design

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“My phone has been broken for three days and I’ve made no effort to fix it,” Englert said, smiling.

And he’s in no rush to get a new one.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve literally considered getting the apps that I need for messages on my girlfriend’s phone and just getting a flip phone.”

A flip phone for a 23-year-old?

That’s Englert. He’s wired a little differently than most, in the most wonderful way. He’s refreshing and different, whether it’s talking about jumping into a frozen river or how he prepares to pitch.

Let him explain how he managed his emotions on Monday night, facing the Astros, in a high leverage, high-pressure situation; and you will quickly veer into a discussion of mediation.

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At least, we think that’s what he was talking about.

Not sure.

“Yesterday was one of those days where the emotions are all positive,” he said. “I felt nothing but excitement. There wasn’t any negative nervousness, no anxiousness. That’s not always gonna be the case. I’m not gonna fight whatever state my brain is in, for whatever reason, like our brains are wild. … I’m just gonna accept it and see it and just go pitch. … A lot of the meditation stuff is having a space of equanimity, which is like a space between yourself and the reaction, your space between yourself and your state. So that that space is like your area to not react.”

If he lost you somewhere between the negative thoughts and the space of equanimity, this is all you need to know: Englert pitched three innings, gave up just two hits, didn’t walk anybody and didn’t give up any runs.

He was so comfortable, so aware of the situation, that he held the ball with Jose Abreu in the box.

A “super conscious” decision.

“He is, obviously, one the best hitters in the world,” Englert said. “Anything you do to make him a little uncomfortable, just give yourself an edge anytime, is important, so just hold on to it. I’m just gonna hold on to it to make him uncomfortable. I think it made everybody uncomfortable.”

Actually, manager A.J. Hinch found it encouraging.

“I thought it was pretty mature,” Hinch said. “I mean, you kind of expect that from some of the older pitchers around the league. We saw it in spring a little bit, mostly out of starting pitchers, mostly out of guys who served his time that could play with the clock a little bit.”

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But to see it out of Englert? A rookie?

“For Englert to have that kind of feeling in his second outing, in this building against these guys with Alvarez up there, arguably one of the scariest hitters to have in the box at any time, it was a pretty good indication that he’s comfortable competing at this level,” Hinch said.

Englert threw 29 pitches, 17 of which were sliders.

That wasn’t necessarily the plan going in, but it was working.

“I just had a good feel of it for the day,” Englert said. Catcher Eric “Haase was putting it down a lot. He liked what he was seeing on his end and then I felt comfortable throwing it.”

Seven of his pitches were four-seam fastballs, four changeups and one token curve.

And when he left the game, when his work was done, his accomplishment didn’t hit him either.

“I was locked into the game because we’re just trying to win,” he said.

Contact Jeff Seidel at jseidel@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

To read Seidel’s recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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