Andrés Muñoz can smile, revealing a mouthful of braces, and chuckle at what will likely be an oft-played highlight this season.

In the moment, it wasn’t amusing, but it was also difficult to be frustrated. It happened so fast and it seemed so surreal.

In the second game of the 2022 season with the Mariners leading 2-1, manager Scott Servais called on the young flamethrower to pitch the eighth inning.

With the Mariners opting to avoid using relievers on back-to-back days early in the season, and regulars Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and Anthony Misiewicz pitching the day before, Muñoz got the leverage situation in his first appearance of the season and just his second MLB appearance since Sept. 15, 2019.

With adrenaline pulsing through his body, keeping him warm with wind chill temps in the high 20s, Muñoz took the mound.

“It took me like 25 pitches to get warm, it usually only takes me 10 to 15,” he said before Friday’s game at T-Mobile Park, while waiting for Manny Acta to serve as an interpreter.

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His first three pitches to No. 9 hitter Nick Gordon were fastballs at speeds of 100, 99 and 100 mph — all balls. Down 3-0, he kept pumping fastballs. The next two were strikes at 99 and 98 mph. But a 3-2 fastball at 100 mph was low for ball four. He’d walked the leadoff batter and put the tying run on base.

It brought Byron Buxton to the plate.

Muñoz went to the fastball … again. He fired a 101 mph fastball that was above the strike zone and over the plate. It’s an unhittable pitch for 90% of MLB hitters. Buxton, who is in the top 1% when healthy, was ready for it. He unleashed his frighteningly quick and short swing on the pitch, sending a rocket into the upper deck for a two-run homer.

“He was looking fastball,” Muñoz was told.

“Yeah, he got fastball and he hit fastball … a long ways,” Muñoz said on his own.

Manager Scott Servais joked postgame that he thought the ball would land in Wisconsin.  

Muñoz had lost the lead and still hadn’t recorded an out. Instead of melting down, he went to his slider and set down the heart of the Twins order, getting Luis Arraez to fly out to left and striking out Carlos Correa and Jorge Polanco.

“To Muñoz’s credit, he came back and got the next three guys out and that’s what allowed us keep the game right there,” Servais said postgame.

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The Mariners rallied in the ninth and Muñoz got the win in a teachable moment.

“I think that needed to happen,” Muñoz said through Acta. “It was a learning experience. It’s going to teach me that I can’t be challenging guys all the time with fastballs.”

But as a teammate pointed out to him, “I could throw that exact pitch again and he will miss it.”

With the understanding that his triple-digit fastball will be more difficult to hit if he throws his slider more, he carried that lesson into his outing in the finale of the four-game series.

Muñoz needed 13 total pitches to strike out Gary Sanchez, Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff, stunning them with eight sliders and only five fastballs.

But it was Muñoz’s outing to close out the road trip in the Mariners’ 5-1 win over the White Sox that had even his teammates shaking their heads.

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He entered in the sixth inning with the Mariners leading 2-1 and struck out Jose Abreu, Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn on 14 pitches. While facing Vaughn, Muñoz threw two fastballs — both balls — that registered 103 mph on the stadium radar gun and 102.5 mph and 102.8 mph on MLB Statcast.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone throw that hard,” Servais said.

They are fastest pitches thrown by a Mariners pitcher in the MLB Statcast era dating back to 2015. The previous three fastest pitches were 102.2 and 102.1 mph from Edwin Díaz in 2016 and 102.1 mph from Arquimedes Caminero also in 2016. Per Statcast, Munoz’s 19 fastballs thrown have an average velocity of 100.5 mph.

“It hurt my hand a few times,” said Cal Raleigh, who was catching Muñoz on Thursday. “He left one inside and it rang me pretty good. It’s electric. He’s going to be a big-time weapon out of the bullpen.”

Muñoz has faced 11 batters this season and has struck out the last eight he’s faced.

But it’s the confidence and command of the slider that has made him devastating. He’s thrown it 28 times and got swings and missed on 87.6% of them.

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The three appearances have left his teammates impressed and thankful they aren’t facing him.  

“It’s 30 degrees out and he’s pumping 103,” Jarred Kelenic said. “You gotta gear up for that fastball and he throws that slider and you’re two days out in front of it. So for him to throw like that in the conditions today, just wait till July, August. He’s gonna throw it 120 miles an hour.”

Well, that might be a bit much. But the Mariners believe he’s just scratched the surface.

“He’s got tremendous stuff,” Mitch Haniger said. “I think we’ll start to see him gain more and more confidence and get even better and better. Tonight would be tough to top. But I feel like once he has a half a year in this league and he knows what he’s actually capable of, I don’t think he even knows how good he can be. I’m looking forward to seeing that.”