By the time Cody Bolton stepped on the mound this past April, it had been two years since he had pitched in a competitive game. After the pandemic canceled out the 2020 minor league season, the right-handed pitcher was forced to miss all of 2021 due to a knee injury.
Bolton got the honors of being the 2022 Opening Day starter for the Indianapolis Indians, making the jump to Triple-A after just 40 innings in Altoona.
The Pirates were obviously cautious with Bolton, but he still managed to pitch 75.2 innings across 30 appearances, 14 of which were starts.
Even with the 14 starts, Bolton remained on a strict pitch limit, and only completed at least four innings three times — with only one of those outings he finished out the fifth.
Bolton finished 2022 with a 4-2 record, posting a 3.09 ERA, while striking out 25.7% of the batters he faced (barely breaking his previous season long mark of 25.1% back in 2019).
Those numbers looked good, but a tough bout with COVID and control issues kept him from being able to stretch out any further than a couple innings at a time.
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) April 6, 2022
A lot of his control struggles came early in the season. He posted a 14.1% walk rate from April to the end of June. After missing most of July, he finally returned on the 27th of that month, and controlled the ball a lot better the rest of the way (9.6 BB%). There was a little bit of a trade off, as his ERA and FIP spiked a bit down the stretch.
Bolton is an interesting case for the Pirates. It wasn’t too long ago he was one of their top pitching prospects. The injuries slowed him down enough to where he has potentially been passed over at this point as a starter.
The Pirates will have Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, and Luis Ortiz all in Triple-A next year. They also have Kyle Nicolas and Carmen Mlodzinski from Altoona who could come up and have a rotation spot.
With the signing of Vince Velasquez and Byrse Wilson being out of options, the Pirates could opt to send Zach Thompson to the minors so they can keep an extra arm on their 40-man stretched out, should they need a spot starter. They could also bring in a minor league free agent (like Jerad Eickhoff in 2022) to fill that last roster spot.
That could force Bolton back to the bullpen, where he could continue to grow into a Wil Crowe type multi-inning reliever/emergency starter type of pitcher.
There could have been a lot of factors that played into it, but Bolton did have trouble maintaining his velocity throughout games. A bullpen role may be best suited for him.
The Pirates could also give Bolton a look in the rotation to start, and see how things go, before ultimately deciding. Regardless it shows the depth that is rising through the system that a prospect as highly rated as Bolton is on the verge of being pushed out the rotation without actually playing his way out of it.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**Jeff Reed says it’s time to take a deep breath, in this week’s Pirates Discussion.
**Oneil Cruz picked up two hits in the latest Pirates winter league update. Check back on Saturday at noon for John Dreker’s latest Pirates Winter Report.
**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at how the late draft pushed 2022 draft pick Thomas Harrington’s debut into 2023.
Song of the Day
Pirates Prospects Weekly
Jeff Reed has the latest Pirates Discussion, talking about exactly how it’s difficult being a Pirates fan during the long rebuild.
John Dreker will have the latest Pirates Winter Report on Saturday.
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.