Cody Laweryson’s welcome-to-pro-baseball moment came pretty early in his stint with the Elizabethton Twins of the rookie level Appalachian League. The first time he took the mound as a professional pitcher, Laweryson knew it was distinct.

“It was just a different feeling than the college baseball feeling,” said Laweryson, a Moscow native and Valley High School graduate. “You’re facing professional hitters with a professional defense behind you.”

Selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round of the MLB draft in June out of the University Maine, Laweryson enjoyed a successful professional baseball debut this season. In 10 appearances (six starts) at Elizabethton, and a start at Single A Cedar Rapids, Laweryson went 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA. He struck out 63, walked 10 and allowed 27 hits in 46 innings of work in the minors. Opponents hit just .168 off Laweryson.

Cody Laweryson Contributed photo by the Elizabethton Twins

Laweryson’s season culminated with his best outing. On Aug. 26, his final game of the season, Laweryson struck out 15 while allowing three hits over six innings in a 1-0 victory over the Greeneville Reds.

“My first impression of Cody, working with him in his first bullpen session was, I knew he had the ability to throw strikes,” said Richard Salazar, Elizabethton’s pitching coach. “He has the ability to throw the ball where he wants to. That’s huge for him.”

The Appalachian League is a rookie class in minor league ball, comprised of teams from Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Laweryson went 5-5 as a junior starting pitcher for Maine last spring. With a 2.85 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings, Laweryson earned first team all-America East Conference honors. Laweryson planned to pitch in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer, but plans changed when the Twins called.

Laweryson arrived in Elizabethton, Tennessee, ready to pitch, but not to be particularly chatty.

“I always made fun of him because he’s a super quiet kid,” Salazar said. “He’s a super respectful kid. He listens. He puts in the time and effort.”

Building off Laweryson’s ability to locate his fastball, Salazar worked with Laweryson to improve his offspeed pitches. They adjusted Laweryson’s changeup grip, giving the pitch more horizontal movement to become a swing-and-miss pitch.

“It felt a little weird at first, but it had a lot more movement,” Laweryson said.

Laweryson earned a brief call-up to Cedar Rapids, where he made one start on Aug. 2 at Beloit (Wisconsin). He threw five scoreless innings, striking out four and giving up two hits to go along with one walk. His catcher that game was Alex Isola — the same battery that worked together in Elizabethton, which helped ease the transition to the higher level, Laweryson said.

“It was a pretty cool experience playing up there. I was filling in as a spot starter,” Laweryson said. “I didn’t really see a huge difference (in the quality of hitters).”

Laweryson’s fastball typically sat between 87 and 92 mph this season, Salazar said, and adding a little pop will only help his development. Laweryson added that he’s working on a harder offspeed pitch, like a slider, to complement his fastball.

“If he gets to 92-94, he can open more eyes,” Salazar said. “The work he puts in in the offseason will be crucial to him.”

Salazar added that Laweryson pitches a little stiffly, so loosening up could help produce a more fluid delivery.

“I told him to get dancing lessons,” Salazar said.

At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Laweryson knows he can add some weight and muscle on his frame. Between his college and pro seasons, Laweryson threw 120 innings, and he’s definitely tired. He won’t throw a baseball again until Nov. 1.

“That’s a lot more (innings) than I’ve really ever thrown,” Laweryson said. “I’m going to work on my lower half mechanics and use my legs more.”

Laweryson reports to the Twins’ minor league complex in Fort Myers, Florida in early February. The goal is to begin the season in Cedar Rapids, the next level of progression in Minnesota’s minor league system.

“Wherever they put me, I’d be happy with that,” Laweryson said.

Laweryson worked as a starter and in relief this past season. Salazar says Laweryson’s future is as a starter, because he’s shown he knows how to build a plan of attack and stick with it over multiple innings.

“It will be very interesting to see him in spring,” he said.

That dominant start Aug. 26 was an exclamation point on a debut pro season of development and improvement. Laweryson hopes it was a springboard to the next phase of his career.

“My arm felt really good that day. All four pitches were working. I got a lot of swings and misses,” Laweryson said. “When I was in the bullpen, I could feel it. My body felt different.”

For Laweryson, that outing can’t be an outlier. The goal is to feel that way every time he takes the mound. To advance and make an impression with the Twins, different needs to be the new normal.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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