The Next Man Up: A Cautionary Tale

For many Pirates Fans Blake Cederlind burst on to the scene during last year’s Spring Training with his K-struts and flowing golden locks, earning the nickname Baby Thor along the way. He was young and exciting, energetic and passionate; bringing everyone along with him, including his teammates, before he was abruptly, but understandably, optioned to the Minor League camp three days before shutdown as he had only pitched a handful of times for the AAA-Indianapolis Indians in 2019. At the time it was assumed his opportunity would eventually come during the upcoming season, when and if it actually took place.

As plans were being made to restart the process toward the end of July, Cederlind found himself assigned the Alternate Site in Altoona, until the young flamethrower was finally called upon to take the mound five times to close out 2020; including the last out for the Pirates via a groundout by Francisco Lindor. It was small cup of coffee for someone with such a large persona, but for those who had seen him pitch, they knew it more than likely wouldn’t be the last sip. This belief especially rang true for a select few that had been following his professional career for a slightly longer period of time.

Being a junkie of prospects, especially when it comes to the Pirates, my exposure to the former Blue Devil and lifetime JUCO Bandit took place a little bit sooner. Back in 2018, during my family’s annual trek to Florida at the beginning of August, we took in a Bradenton Marauders game as we often do; this time at LECOM Park. I could try spinning you a web about how Cederlind was the reason for this outing, but I am pretty sure this would be easily unraveled by just glimpsing at the roster for second. In actuality it was outfielder Jared Oliva that myself and my brood of young Bucco Fans came to see, and Baby Thor, as he would come to be known, ended up being the icing on the cake.

By the top of the ninth the kids were getting restless, everyone was drenched in sweat from the August heat and some of us might have had too many $1 drafts on a Thirsty Thursday. Nevertheless, we stuck around until the end of the game like we always did, so the kids could get autographs on the baseballs they had shagged off of bats or from players. At that moment a 6’4” righty took the mound, throwing harder than any pitcher who put his foot on the rubber that day. Twenty pitches, a ground out and two strikeouts later it was on to the bottom half of the inning and an eventual 10-3 loss for the Marauders, however, I was left with an impression of a pitcher I couldn’t wait to see in Altoona the following year.

Unfortunately in my two trips to People’s Natural Gas Field that year, Cederlind did not make an appearance, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t keep an eye on his progress; eventually writing about his rise to Altoona, Indianapolis and ultimately the Arizona Fall League at my previous gig at a now defunct site in December of 2019. Needless to say I have been as excited and optimistic as anyone when it comes to Cederlind’s potential role in the Pirates bullpen moving forward, which hit a speed bump, as we all know by now, just the other day when he was placed on the 60 Day IL with a UCL strain after less than three innings of work in Spring Training.

Prior to this set back Cederlind had been marked by many as the closer of the future, with the possibility of that happening by the end of the season if Richard Rodriguez were to moved prior to then; and to some this would take place even if he wasn’t due to the abilities of the young flamethrower.

All too often we as fans make these leaps in our minds, only to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen for one reason or another. For prospects there are so many sets of circumstances that could befall a promising career, and sometimes there is no one to back them up or a plan for replacement. So, we must be cautious who we dub as the next closer of future or next name your position of the future because there is so much uncertainty in this game and even we we think we have it all planned out, it is always in danger of changing.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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