Cody Sedlock wants to start.
Sedlock — a right-handed pitcher the Orioles selected with their 2016 first-round draft pick — has wanted that since May 25, when he last took the mound for the High-A Frederick Keys. He wanted that as he battled back from a strained flexor mass in his pitching elbow in 2017 and a thoracic outlet syndrome scare in 2018.
And he wanted that Thursday when he took the mound in a piggyback role behind 2017 first-rounder DL Hall.
“I always like to start,” Sedlock said Tuesday. “I wanna go deep into games. Kind of sucks in that aspect, but I understand it.”
In his first relief appearance of the season, Sedlock replaced Hall in the sixth and allowed a run in two innings, but he retired the final five batters he faced with three strikeouts.
The Orioles are trying to monitor the innings of a promising pitcher whose 43 2/3 frames through eight starts for Frederick were already more than he threw in 2018. Those eight outings were dazzling, as Sedlock posted a 1.44 ERA, went at least five innings in all but one start, allowed more than three hits only once and has yet to surrender more than two runs.
Sedlock, 24, and Frederick manager Ryan Minor credited the increased usage of analytics and slow-motion video throughout the organization for Sedlock’s strong performance.
“He always had good stuff,” Minor said. “It’s just been implementing it in the game and utilizing what he wants to do prior to the game, and this year, he’s been really effective.”
Said Sedlock: “It’s helped me have a lot more confidence in the pitches that I throw, knowing that the percentages are on my side when I throw those pitches in those locations and everything’s gonna play out. It’s just knowing every single pitch, what I need to do to be able to make that pitch better and play at the best.”
Doing that earned him a Carolina League All-Star nod, though he was held out of the game as part of the organization’s effort to limit his innings. Minor and Sedlock both said his layoff for the past month had nothing to do with health, though Sedlock said he has spent part of that time “just getting my body right.”
Minor said Sedlock’s scheduling also related to the occasional rainout and the Keys’ efforts to subsequently keep him in a routine. The innings management is an important part of the balance, too.
“The main thing is just getting innings because he hadn’t pitched hardly at all in the last year or so,” Minor said. “For him to be able to pace the season out, we have to be able to back him off from some starts.”
The piggybacking method he partook in Thursday, where a usual starting pitcher follows the game’s starter in relief, is one the Keys have used regularly thanks to the Orioles’ depth of low-minors pitching talent. Sedlock, who threw 45 pitches Thursday, said he hopes to throw about 15 more pitches each subsequent outing and quickly return to the rotation.
He spent the past month pitching live batting practice and doing flat-ground work. He said that time afforded him the opportunity to better refine his changeup, among the pitches that have led to his early-season success.
Sedlock said his increased comfort throwing off-speed pitches when behind in the count often caused batters to get themselves out, and when he’s ahead, he’s better able to use his off-speed as put-away pitches. He was able to do that as a college pitcher at Illinois, but losing time and, temporarily, his fastball to injury allowed him to refine those offerings.
“Battling through the injuries, I came out on the other side with a lot more knowledge,” said Sedlock, who finished with a 5.11 ERA in 37 innings at three minor league levels last season. “Mentally, [an injury] is a lot worse than physically, for sure. Pain’s one thing, but not be able to put on your uniform and pitch, and when you are, it’s not to the best of your ability, it’s a really tough thing.”
So, for Sedlock to recently have the game taken away not because he’s injured but in pursuit of managing his workload so he doesn’t get severely hurt again was frustrating in a different way. Rather than pout, he tried to use that time to improve.
“I could’ve taken it one way where I just sat around, took it as a break, or I could’ve amped up my work a little bit since I didn’t have to be on the mound competing, and that’s what I did,” Sedlock said. “So, it really wasn’t that much of a break to be honest. Every day, I had a goal in mind, and I accomplished those goals, but overall, it was a good experience. I’m going to come out the other side better.”