Bowie — Last summer at High-A Frederick, manager Ryan Minor had a first-round draft pick in title only with right-hander Cody Sedlock, who was in the midst of his second straight injury-hampered season in the Carolina League.
First, it was elbow soreness that pushed his ERA up near six in 2017. Last year, it was shoulder soreness that limited him to 37 innings over three levels.
That pitcher, both literally and figuratively, is gone. A healthy and confident Sedlock debuted Wednesday at Double-A Bowie with three innings of one-hit relief and carried a no-hit bid through five innings in a start Monday night to show the promotion he waited all that time for was, finally, deserved.
"It was great to hear those words after all the struggles and everything, coming back this season and doing what I've done so far," Sedlock said last week, before he began his Eastern League career with eight scoreless innings while striking out 11 against six walks. "I'm looking forward to taking it to the next level."
"Last year, it looked like every day he was coming in and it was just a struggle to be able to get through games, and a struggle mentally for him to get to prepare," Minor said. "You could really see it in his body language, to where this year has been a total 180 and he's able to walk around with confidence. He's going to the mound with confidence.
"He's able to throw all of his pitches for strikes where in the past he struggled doing that, and he'd get hit around a little bit. It was a snowball affect from there. But I've seen a dramatic change in his attitude and his confidence level, knowing he's going to go out and have success on the mound."
For Sedlock, plenty has gone into that success this year. He believes health is the contributing factor, with the strained flexor mass (a collection of muscles and tendons that come together in the forearm near the elbow) of 2017 and the shoulder issue related to thoracic outlet syndrome from 2018 both healed. He had some time on the injured list earlier this year at Frederick, but downplayed it as a rest period.
His health has allowed him to enter a period in his career where he's "getting back to who I am as a pitcher and as an athlete, and kind of taking matters into my own hands a little bit with my career," he said.
"After I did that, things started to fall into place and I started to see my stuff increase, and my performance increase," Sedlock said.
"It's kind of just a maturity thing. Everyone's going to have to go through that learning curve, and once you get comfortable with your body and baseball and everything, you kind of learn what to take in and what not to, and what to run with, and to pick and choose and try little things and find stuff that works for you."
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The pitcher who debuted Wednesday at Bowie in a piggyback role was far better than the versions that preceded it in past years at High-A Frederick. His fastball was 90-92 mph, topping out at 93, and he was able to reach back for more in bigger situations. His command wasn't perfect, but his 83-86 mph slider was the best of his secondary pitches, followed closely by his changeup, though one of his three strikeouts came on his curveball.
Through two starts at Bowie, the only hit he’s allowed was a pop-up that was lost in the sun. Over two levels, he has a 2.09 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 69 innings.
Sedlock said being able to liberally throw those secondary pitches has made him more comfortable on the mound.
“That’s one of those things where my off-speeds and my secondaries are good enough, and they’re so good that I shouldn’t be throwing 70%, 75% fastballs,” Sedlock said. “It’s kind of limiting myself, whereas in college, I was probably 50% fastball and stuff like that. That’s just how I pitch, and I’ve kind of taken that into this year, and knowing that if the hitter doesn’t know what’s coming in every single count, that makes pitching a lot easier.”
In an abbreviated three-inning outing, one that included three walks and only a sun-field pop-up single, he threw 24 fastballs on 53 pitches, in keeping with that philosophy. He’s put in significant work in Frederick with their pitching coach, Justin Lord, and with minor league pitching coordinator Chris Holt, with the team’s high-speed cameras refining those off-speed pitches and learning what makes them move the way he wants.
"Especially with what he endured the last couple of years, to be able to try something different and see pitching in a different way and fortunately for him, he's really taken to it and utilizing all this stuff in a game," Minor said. "That's where it really matters, to be able to take what you do on the side to be able to go into the game."
“What I like about it is there’s no guessing,” Sedlock said. “It’s all data, it’s all stuff that you know is going to work if you put in the effort and get to that point, and I like that about it too, because you’re not thinking about mechanics, you’re not thinking about anything like that. You’re just being an athlete and doing what works for you, and what kind of pitcher you are.”