FREDERICK—One of the best stories in the Orioles’ minor league system is the return of Cody Sedlock as a prospect. In 2016, the Orioles made Sedlock, who will turn 24 on June 19, their No. 1 draft choice from the University of Illinois.
Injuries and ineffectiveness ruined his 2017 and 2018 seasons, and he’s back for his third go-around with the Frederick Keys. This one is far more successful than the other two.
In 2017, Sedlock started 20 times for the Keys and was 4-5 with a 5.90 ERA. Last year, he had six forgettable starts and went 0-2 with a 7.97 ERA with Frederick.
Sedlock had a right shoulder strain and coldness in his right index finger that was eventually diagnosed as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. As he prepares for Saturday’s start at Potomac, Sedlock is 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA with a sparkling WHIP of 0.802. He’s averaged just over four hits per nine innings.
“I have such a better routine, and it helps being healthy,” Sedlock said. “I feel like I’m 100 percent healthy, and I’m recovering a lot better. I’m able to get all of my work in between starts, and my arm strength is back up. I’m able to throw every single pitch any time when I want to. That’s helped a lot and go out there with a good plan.”
Last year, Sedlock’s season was a disaster, and he would not to focus on it.
“It was tough, especially since I hold myself to such great expectations,” he said. “It’s going back to enjoying the game and enjoying the process and not looking that far into the future and being thankful to be able to play this game, even at my age, and show up to the park every day with a set goal in mind. The support from my friends, my family and my fiancée, it’s all been great.”
In 2016, the first three Oriole draft picks were Sedlock, Keegan Akin and Matthias Dietz, all college pitchers from the Midwest. Akin has progressed nicely, and is a top prospect at Triple-A Norfolk. Sedlock and Dietz, who has struggled this year, are both at Frederick.
“I was a first-round draft pick for a reason,” Sedlock said. “I knew it. The people who knew me and have seen me pitch, they knew that. It just goes back to having confidence in yourself and to be able to battle that adversity and come back from it. It’s only going to make you stronger.
“Some people, they bury themselves, they’ll have some adversity and they’ll take it like, ‘oh man, I’m a first-round draft pick, I can’t do this,’ and they’ll put a lot of pressure on themselves. Or you can take it like, ‘I’m going to come back from this and come back stronger than I was before and use it as an advantage.’”
Frederick pitching coach Justin Lord is proud of the work Sedlock has done.
“It’s been 100 percent his determination and his work,” Lord said. “A lot of times it’s good for guys to struggle at an earlier age because they have an opportunity to prove to themselves that they can get over it, so whenever they get to the highest level, they have that confidence to believe they can get through it again because you’re going to struggle. At some point, you’re going to struggle.”
Lord was Sedlock’s pitching coach with Short-Season Aberdeen when he was drafted, and he’s seen the difference in him.
“Just knowing some of the struggles he’s gone through, it’s really encouraging not to see him lose hope. He hasn’t blamed anyone. He’s taken full responsibility for everything he’s done, and he’s worked his butt off to get where he is right now.”
Lord doesn’t decide which pitchers are moved up or down in the Orioles’ organization but says that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Sedlock pitch for the first time in Double-A this season.
“From a pitching standpoint, I would say that he’s close,” Lord said. “He’s shown an ability to move the ball in and out. He changes speeds, he throws his changeup effectively to right-handers and left-handers. He’s also using his breaking ball when he’s ahead and behind, and those are characteristics you like to see, a guy that’s able to mix his pitches, no matter what the count is, so he’s not as predictable.
“He can move it around and throw different pitches no matter who’s in the box or if they’re right-handed or left-handed. That’s an area I’ve really seen him improve in and mature in as well.”
With the Orioles short on starting pitching and pitching prospects in the top levels of the organization, Sedlock couldn’t be blamed for looking ahead to Bowie and beyond.
“Two years ago, if I was doing this, I would be thinking about that. Right now, I’m not thinking about that at all. I’m looking forward to my next start, and that’s the only thing that’s on my mind. Whether that call comes or not that’s out of my hands and all I can do is control what I do on a day-to-day basis.”