Mostly by coincidence but perhaps by serendipity, a pair of Orioles minor league pitchers who have had to move past hard times on the mound that took the shine off their lofty prospect status are lined up on the same day at Double-A Bowie.
Former first-round draft pick Cody Sedlock and 2018 third-round pick Blaine Knight are well past their struggles now. So when the day comes for one to start and the other to piggyback, they show their hard work and short memories are keeping them on a path to pitch at Camden Yards — something the previous front office envisioned for the former college stars.
“Obviously, they both came into the organization with expectations being first- and third-rounders and through their own success and failures, I think they’ve come a long way and I absolutely think they’ve put themselves on that path and on the trajectory to make an impact on the big league club at some point,” Bowie pitching coach Justin Ramsey said. “I’m not sure what capacity, but honestly, who cares? They’re all weapons. Let’s have fun with them.”
Their outing Tuesday in a 6-3 loss to Hartford, though seemingly lopsided, showed how far both have come. Sedlock, who entered the game with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 40 innings, was almost perfect his first three innings. He left a pitch elevated for a solo home run in the second but got through those first three innings on just 30 pitches with three strikeouts and three balls thrown.
A pair of solo home runs to begin the fourth, then a four-pitch walk, set up a five-run fourth that ended his day. Sitting 90-92 mph with his fastball, Sedlock showed the ability to land his curveball for strikes and get swings-and-misses on his slider and changeup, the latter being a pitch he’d throw to righties and lefties. Ramsey said the first three innings were “lights-out,” and a half-swing double and fielder’s choice in which the Baysox didn’t get an out at the plate made for a “funky” fourth.
Knight’s relief outing, which began in the sixth after an impressive inning from Steven Klimek, required no such qualifiers. After dominating for the first month of 2019 at Low-A Delmarva, Knight regressed badly at High-A Frederick the rest of the year and had a 6.13 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP. He couldn’t get any of his high-spin secondary pitches over for strikes and had his fastball pummeled in the strike zone.
There were no signs of that pitcher Tuesday, and hasn’t been for much of this year. Knight said he and his college catcher, Grant Cook, identified things he’d never done before during their pandemic bullpen sessions to get him back to being the pitcher who attacked the zone and went after hitters’ weaknesses instead of trying to get swings-and-misses.
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That showed as he struck out seven in four shutout innings Tuesday, walking one and allowing a single with his fastball sitting in the low-90s and up to 94 mph. While he got swinging strikes on all of his pitches and was particularly effective with his changeup, five of the strikeouts were looking as he kept the Yard Goats hitters off balance.
“When he’s attacking with his weapons, that’s what it looks like,” Ramsey said. “You get those kinds of swings — negative contact, swing-and-miss, that kind of stuff. He’s been doing a lot of stuff like that this year, especially bouncing back from last one where he didn’t quite have that finish and you didn’t see those swings.”
Knight was the starter on the duo’s day to pitch last week in Erie and allowed six runs in 1 ⅓ innings. He said having been through the difficulties of 2019 made that a mere blip in his mind and allowed him to attack Tuesday’s return to the mound without dwelling on it.
“I think I’m better off now knowing I can recover from it,” he said. “I’ve been through it. Last week, I got hit around by Erie and I was able to flush it and come back tonight and pitch. … It’s fun to have confidence back again and be rolling in the right direction for sure.”
Ramsey sees parallels in both Knight and Sedlock this season in their ability to come back after a tougher outing and pitch well.
Knight, who pitched with Sedlock at Frederick in 2019 as a healthy Sedlock was reclaiming his best form in the Orioles’ new pitching program and rebuilding his prospect status, said he’s benefited from his presence and their aligned schedules this year as they look to climb beyond Bowie.
“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Knight said. “That dude has been around. He’s extremely good at what he does, and we get to talk about outings and what we think works with different guys because we do have similarities with how we throw. It’s been a lot of fun, just to sit back and watch him shove all year. It’s been a joy.”