New York Mets minor league pitching coach Rick Mahler, who started five season openers for the Braves in the 1980s, died of a heart attack Wednesday morning in Jupiter, Fla. He was 51.
"It's a sad day," said Mets assistant general manager Jim Duquette, who made the announcement after the team's Grapefruit League opener against Washington.
"I didn't know he had any type of problem," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It's awful."
The Braves, who were playing Georgia Tech at Disney's Wide World of Sports, were notified by Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, a former Brave. "It was a shock," Cox said.
Mahler, whose brother Mickey also pitched for the Braves, was 96-111 with a 3.99 ERA during a 13-year major league career (1979-1991). His best season came in 1985, when he was 17-15 with a 3.48 ERA for the Braves. The next year, he was 14-18, leading the majors in losses. The right-hander started on opening day for the Braves in 1982, when Atlanta won its first 13 games and went on to win the National League West title under manager Joe Torre. Mahler made four straight opening-day starts beginning in 1985. Cox was manager of the Braves through the 1981 season and returned to the team as general manager in 1986, reuniting with Mahler during a dismal time in the team's history. "Rick was a great competitor," Cox said. "He could pitch." Mahler pitched twice in the playoffs, with the Braves in 1982 and in 1990 with the Cincinnati team that went on to win the World Series.
Sad news, indeed.