Eppley cruises to Double-A

MIDLAND – Right-hander Cody Eppley earned a quick promotion to Double-A Frisco after beginning his season with 18 shutout innings at Bakersfield. The reliever is having some early success at the back-end of Frisco's bullpen, and Lone Star Dugout features the 24-year-old prospect.

Cody Eppley pitched a full season with the Single-A Hickory Crawdads last year. He wasn't in High-A for quite as long.

The right-hander opened the 2010 season with the Bakersfield Blaze, but he earned a promotion to Double-A after spending just over a month in the California League.

Eppley now plays his baseball in the same area as his big league parent club. He's enjoying the experience so far.

"I was just happy to get the chance to come up here," Eppley said. "It's pretty amazing in Frisco. All the facilities there, the location––it's just amazing. The fan base is pretty nice. There are a lot of people that come out to the games. I was surprised that first Friday night I was there."

A four-year player at Virginia Commonwealth University, Eppley is in his second full professional season and at 24-years-old, he was slightly old for the Cal League.

Because he did have some experience, Eppley figured he would have an opportunity to get to Double-A at some point this season––just not this early.

"I didn't have a timeline or any date set in mind [for a promotion]," said the former 43rd round selection. "But I thought if I went out and pitched well, like I knew that I could, I thought I had a good chance to go to Frisco.

"I didn't think I was going to get up here this fast, but I'm happy to be here. I'm just counting my blessings and I'm going to keep working hard."

Simply put, Eppley forced the issue with his phenomenal performance.

The sidearming reliever tossed 18 scoreless innings with Bakersfield, allowing nine hits, walking one and striking out 24.

Command has never been an issue for Eppley since dropping down sidearm [Eppley threw high three-quarters prior to the '09 season] in Spring Training last year. He had 76 strikeouts versus only six walks in 67.2 innings at Hickory last season.

As Eppley gets more comfortable with the lower arm angle, his velocity is also beginning to improve. The Pennsylvania native worked between 85-88 mph with Bakersfield early this season––up a bit from last year––and he has thrown his heavy sinker at 88-91 mph [sitting at about 89] since his recent promotion to Frisco.

Eppley says his arm is simply feeling better than it has in the past.

"[My velocity jump] might be a little bit from being pumped up from being up here," Eppley said. "And I'm feeling a lot better. My arm is feeling real good. The ball is coming out of my hand real well.

"The other night, I think I sat about 89, which is the highest I have sat since dropping sidearm. I was just pleased with that. If I stay up there, I'm happy. If I stay at 87, either way I'm happy. I'm just trying to throw strikes and make it sink. I'm not trying to do too much."

Eppley is still throwing strikes and making it sink with the RoughRiders. In his first three Double-A outings, he has tossed four scoreless innings, giving up two hits, walking one, and fanning six.

The 6-foot-5 hurler has also continued to work down in the zone with sink––he has posted an incredible 5:1 groundout-to-flyout ratio at both stops this season.

Though Eppley has started his season with 22 scoreless innings between two levels, he still realizes he has plenty of work to do.

"I still have to keep working on my changeup, especially to lefties," he said. "Just keep them off-balance. Another thing is getting my fastball control down, whether it's both sides of the plate or in to righties. Especially in to lefties, because I have to keep them honest from leaning over the plate on me, since my ball always runs in to them."

Eppley picked up a strikeout looking when he busted a lefty with an inside fastball during his outing against Midland on May 18.

With his current arm angle, Eppley appears to release the ball behind right-handed hitters, making the pitch incredibly difficult for them to pick up.

In fact, since dropping down, righties are just 38-for-220 [.173] with five walks and 84 strikeouts against him. Nearly half––24 of the 50––right-handers to step into the box against him this year have struck out.

It has been a different story against lefties, though, as they hit .337 off him last year. He has shown drastic improvement in that area thus far––they're 6-for-29 [.207] with one walk and six strikeouts.

In addition to the fastball command and changeup, Eppley is trying to work on throwing a backdoor slider to combat lefties. He got a strikeout looking while doing so in that May 18 outing but gave up a bloop single while missing over the plate the next time out.

"I need to mix up my pitches," he said. "I'm working on a backdoor slider to lefties. That's just another thing that I need to concentrate on."

At the Double-A level less than two months into his second full season, Eppley is clearly pleased with his development. But he also realizes plenty more development is necessary.

"This is a big step up," he said. "At the same time, I understand I still have a lot of work to do to get a couple miles down the road to Arlington."

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