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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Cody Bolton Returns to the Mound After Two Years Away

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For most of his life, baseball has been a constant for Cody Bolton. It has been his normal.

This commitment allowed the 6-foot-3 right hander to work his way up to being a sixth round pick by the Pirates in 2017. He quickly signed rather than pursuing a college baseball opportunity at Michigan, further pushing this desire to play the game at its highest level and achieve his dream.

In 2019, Bolton had the momentum of a freight train on the fast track to Pittsburgh. He dominated the Florida State League in 12 starts with Bradenton and earned his way to Double-A in just his third professional season. He did have some time on the IL during the campaign, but he was just two leaps away from his ultimate desire and the big leagues.

Then in 2020, consistent with most of the world, everything changed drastically for Bolton. The Coronavirus halted all of Minor League Baseball. He was forced to spend the campaign away from competitive games, the accelerated path he was on, and his baseball normal.

For most of us, 2021 was a false fresh start from the previous year’s disaster. This was also true for Bolton. In May, it was announced that he had surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear. The rehab process was grueling for Bolton, who looks back on how difficult steps of the process were.

“The mental side is the hard part,” Bolton said. “For my rehab process, it was early mornings every day. Down in Florida, it is hot weather. It was just doing the same thing every day pretty much. Once I started to be able to do more on the knee and being able to work out and throw, it went by a lot quicker.”

It was the difficulty of this rehab that made opening night in Indianapolis that much sweeter. Bolton did not return to Double-A, despite the limited experience there. He was pushed to the next level. Not only that, he was made the opening night starter there.

“It felt great, a lot of excitement,” Bolton said after his first start. “It felt really good to be back out on the mound in a real game…Being down all of last year and then all of the Covid stuff in 2020, just felt really good.”

Indianapolis manager Miguel Perez knew that, based on what he went through, Bolton was the best choice to kick off the season in Indianapolis.

“It was very special and he was looking forward to it,” Perez said. “There couldn’t be any better man to do that after he missed two years. Especially as the guy he is. He is a great guy and teammate. He has been fighting and working hard to get back.”

In the season opener, Bolton admitted that the plan was to get through three innings, but he reached his pitch count of 48 after 2.2 innings. His slider was crisp and he allowed just three base runners. Tim Williams wrote about the slider’s return to prominence back in February in the link below.

Cody Bolton Returning Healthy and With His Old Slider

Bolton also said that he knew that he was going to pitch in the first game, but was not sure if he would start. When he was offered the ball, there was not a second thought on whether he would accept.

With this commitment, came certain butterflies. This was further nudged as he allowed a lead off single and entered the dangerous part of the Omaha lineup with two Top 100 prospects in Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez. Bolton fanned Pratto and induced Melendez into a line drive double play.

Anthony Murphy provided a breakdown of Bolton’s first start with Indianapolis:

Cody Bolton: Slider Control Main Factor In Opening Day Start

Based on his life experiences over the past two years, Perez was not surprised by the composure of Bolton to get out of the first inning trouble.

“You could tell how excited he was,” Perez said. “On one of those pitches, he sort of stepped off. We talked about it. He stepped off and said he had to take control of this, and he did it. It was because of the excitement that he had and he was trying to do a lot.”

Bolton also admitted to some first inning jitters. However, he also said that getting out of the frame was a huge confidence boost.

“After I was done with the first inning, I came into the dugout and told a couple of the guys my heart was racing through the first inning,” Bolton said. “When I went back out for the second inning, my heart slowed down and I got into a groove. It was back to normal.”

Bolton said that he wished he would have been allowed to go deeper into the first start, but he and Perez shared a smile when the manager headed out to the mound.

As for the path forward, Bolton said that he was not sure if he would be a starter, reliever, or even see some action in the closer role. He said that the plan was to throw only one inning in his second outing. He did just that on Saturday, with a scoreless frame. Through two outings, Bolton has struck out five in 3.2 innings, while walking just one and surrendering three hits.

“We want to get me uncomfortable so that I can be comfortable,” Bolton said. “I will be doing one inning, three innings, four innings, whatever it is. Just being able to do it all.”

Bolton has had plenty of uncomfortable times off the mound in the past two years. He relishes the opportunity to have new experiences on it.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Which Pirates Prospects Stood Out in the First Week?

Top Pirates Prospects Sorted by Level, Position and Age

Why Am I Here? Some Interesting Initial Assignments in the Pirates’ System

Travis Swaggerty Gears For Season After Roller Coaster Break

Ji-Hwan Bae: Opposite Field Hitting Leads To Strong Opening Week

Cody Bolton Returns to the Mound After Two Years Away

Indianapolis Indians Pitching Staff Thrive Through Chaotic Week

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Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.

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