Cody Cruising for 'Caps

In four starts this season, West Michigan pitcher Chris Cody is 2-1 with a 0.27 ERA. He has allowed only one earned run in 33 2/3 innings pitched, holding opponents scoreless through his first 24 innings. His 34 strikeouts lead the Midwest League, along with his miniscule ERA. This is not the type of dominance one would expect from a lefty whose fast ball never touches 90 m.p.h.

Cody's style relies on deception and hitting his spots while on the mound, the same style applied by his pitching idol.

"It comes from growing up watching Tom Glavine pitch against my favorite team and now he's pitching for the team that I rooted for, the Mets," Cody said. "He's getting a little bit older and he has to rely on pinpoint pitching."

Cody points to pitchers like Glavine and Jamie Moyer as "role models for left-handed pitchers like me who don't light up the radar gun.

"Try to make the strikes look like balls and balls look like strikes, keep (batters) off balance.

"It's a chess game not a checkers game, that's the best analogy I can come up with," Cody said. "And I don't even play chess."

Before being selected by the Tigers in the 8th round of the June 2006 draft, Cody spent four years pitching at Manhattan College. In 2006 he went 12-2 with a 1.42 ERA, striking out 105 in 108 innings pitched, including nine complete games. This earned him numerous honors, including MAAC Pitcher of the Year and First Team All-MAAC. He then spent the second half of the summer in the New York-Penn League with the Oneonta Tigers, chalking up a 4-1 record and a 2.38 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 53 innings.

In other words, Cody had plenty of experience before coming to the Whitecaps. He credits that experience with his early success at West Michigan.

"You get better by playing more baseball," Cody said. "Playing four years of college ball against top-notch teams and going to the Penn League playing against more advanced players...getting that experience was valuable to me."

Though he has found early on some of the same success he had in college, Cody knows that the bar has been raised and he will continue to be challenged night in and night out.

"I compare it to facing the 3-4-5 hitters every time up," Cody said. "Every guy in the professional lineup is the best hitter from the college lineup. You can never take a hitter off mentally."

Cody offers up a variety of pitches: a change-up, curve, two-and-four seam fast balls and a newly developed cutter.

"My bread and butter pitch has always been my change-up," Cody said. "On any day my curve ball could be a little sharper, I could be locating my two-seam fast ball a little bit better. All in all I think my change-up is my strongest pitch day-in and day-out."

It is that confidence in his change-up that allows Cody to freeze batters with a mid-80s fast ball. And with the addition of a cutter, his other pitches will take on new life.

"I try to get more consistent with my cutter, using it to both sides of the plate and trying to keep hitters honest," Cody said. "If I can do that it will make all my other pitches that much more effective."

Cody is quick to compliment the coaches in the Tiger's organization for his development over the past year. He has worked very well with Whitecaps pitching coach Ray Burris, who was also with him as Oneonta's pitching coach in 2006. He also credits Minor League Pitching Coordinator Jon Matlack, who offers good advice as a former lefty pitcher himself.

"I just feel pretty luck to be surrounded by Tom Brookens, who has major league experience, Ray Burris has 15 years in the bigs, and Jon Matlack obviously (12 Major League seasons), Cody said." "All these guys on the pitching staff with me feel the same way, it's just like a world of knowledge at our fingertips."

Cody will pitch again Friday at Peoria as he looks to continue his successful start. Looking ahead through the season, his goals are much like his pitching style, simple yet confident.

"I want to bring back another Midwest League Championship and continue getting hitters out, the name of the game."

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