No matter whether the man on the mound is a first-round draft pick with the world in front of him or an undrafted pitcher there to fill a roster spot, the message anywhere in the low minors from the coaching staff is all about fastball command.
Cody Sedlock, the Orioles’ first-round pick in last year’s draft, managed to pitch well even though he did not have his fastball command in the first half of a doubleheader Monday for High-A Frederick.
“Today, my fastball command really wasn’t that good,” Sedlock said. “But it’s one of those things where I limited my mistakes on the fastball, and one thing I learned throughout the season is just to simplify everything, and if you have confidence in your fastball, good things are going to happen. … With my fastball, sometimes it can move an inch and sometimes it can move eight inches. It’s one of those things where I’ve just got to get a feel for it and keep throwing it and good things happen.”
Sedlock’s first inning was his most effective with the fastball all day, though three of the five hits he allowed came in that frame, all on fastballs. His first 13 pitches were fastballs, and the Potomac Nationals loaded the bases on three one-out singles to create a minor jam. However, he went to his changeup and coaxed a double-play ball to get out of the inning.
His two-seamer sat 92-93 mph in that first inning, and he went back to it heavily in the second inning as well. Once he started mixing his offerings more in the third inning, things improved for him. He broke out his curveball and got his first strikeout on it to lead off the third, and also got swinging strikes on his changeup in that inning.
“You always want to go through the lineup one time with mainly fastballs, maybe mix in a couple changeups, and second time through is when they’ve seen you,” Sedlock said. “That’s when you start mixing in your secondary pitches. I’m blessed to be able to throw my secondary pitches for strikes, so it’s good to have that for the second time through the order.”
But too often, he struggled to locate his fastball in the zone. Three of his four walks were of the four-pitch variety, and even if the damage wasn’t coming on the board, he alternated between missing low arm side with his fastball and missing glove side. On the day, 26 of the 54 fastballs he threw were strikes.
But even with his primary pitch sitting 89-91 mph in the later innings of his outing, Sedlock avoided damage until the sixth inning. Third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez found the right-center field gap past a diving Ademar Rifaela for a leadoff triple in the sixth inning, and scored on a single by first baseman Ian Sagdal.
That would be Sedlock’s final batter, and Sagdal came around to score against reliever Luis Gonzalez. Sedlock was charged with allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts in five innings, bringing his ERA to 5.80 on the season.
The outing provides an interesting snapshot of where Sedlock is, one season out of the team selecting him in the first round out of Illinois. He at times showed a good changeup and a good curveball, with the changeup being more consistent and the curveball at times showing tight break.
The fastball, mostly of the two-seam variety after he found such success with the pitch as a junior at Illinois, didn’t get a single swinging strike all game — all six he had were on off-speed pitches. And his delivery, which has some deception, is violent to the point of concerning for some scouts.
Before the start, Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said Sedlock has shown everything that a first-round pick should in his first full season, but has not done it consistently.
Sedlock pulled his ERA down with the outing, and it’ll be a challenge to continue bringing it down after a stretch in late April and May when he allowed 29 earned runs on 41 hits in 21 2/3 innings over five starts.
“I was just trying to do too much with everything instead of just focusing on the glove and hitting my spots,” he said. “There were a lot of things going on in my head, trying to get hitters out that way instead of trusting my stuff. … It was real up, then real down. It’s just one of those things where it’s just part of the experience, and I know my bad month is going to make me stronger. I’m just trying to find myself as a pitcher. I’m excited for the future and excited for the rest of the season wherever it takes us.”