After beginning this season with the Thunder, Cotham was called up to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and made his first start May 9. Throwing on a pitch count, Cotham went 4.2 innings, allowed four hits, one run and struck out five in the RailRiders' 2-1 extra inning loss to Indianapolis.
"I was pleased with it," the 25-year-old said of his Triple-A debut. "I felt comfortable, I was able to throw strikes. Obviously, I feel like there is a lot of room for improvement and a lot of things I can work on. It's definitely a good stepping stone, though."
Cotham believed he had a pretty good Spring Training that gave him some momentum coming into the season.
"Spring Training's one of those things where you wanna be aggressive, throw strikes, establish the fastball," he said. "I think I was able to do that pretty well."
Cotham made six starts in Trenton and went 1-1 with a 3.96 ERA and struck out 20 batters. Despite giving up some big hits, he believes he accomplished what he needed to do during his brief time in Double-A.
"I think just sticking to the process, trying to establish fastball command, working on those secondary pitches, and just learning how to manage and get deep into a game was key," he said. "[Trenton's] Tommy Phelps, he's a really good pitching coach. He helped me kind of think about pitching a little differently and have some fun. You know, how to work hitters and how to basically gameplan a game."
Those secondary pitches he referred to are his slider, changeup and curveball, which is a new pitch that's still developing. He feels that his best two are the fastball and slider.
"I feel confident with all four, but it's just finding spots for them and being able to throw them as quality strikes instead of just throwing strikes," he said. "I think the higher [up] I go, the more importance is put on quality location within the zone.
"Being able to pitch backwards and being able to use my second, third, fourth pitches in maybe a fastball count to make my outings last longer," he added.
What made Cotham's first Triple-A start even more memorable was who else was in the game for both the RailRiders and Indianapolis. Yankees' All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson was on a rehab assignment and started in right field for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cotham was also opposed by Gerrit Cole, considered by many to be one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
"It's definitely pretty surreal to have an All-Star in right field for you, a guy that's one of the biggest names in baseball, so that's always pretty cool to do that," he said. "And facing a guy like Gerrit Cole, who throws the ball really hard and knows what he's doing, it's fun just to challenge yourself and see what you got. Luckily, I was able to compete a little bit."
To be successful at the Triple-A level Cotham knows he's going to have to make the necessary adjustments. He knows the hitters he'll see at this level are going to be the best he's faced.
"The guys have a way better clue than at the lower levels," he said. "They come up there [to the plate], they know what they're looking for, they have a game plan and they're gonna stick to it. Not only do they have a game plan, they're pretty good at executing it.
"So it's just making pitches that are quality in the zone and just how to work guys and pitch a little bit," he added.
Cotham knows he can only take things a day at a time. That's why for the rest of the season he wants to make it a point to get better every single day.
"It's a process, my goal is to pitch in the big leagues and pitch for a long time," he said. "I just gotta be willing everyday to do something that will make me reach that goal as soon as possible."
Cotham Happy With Start To The Season
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