PHOENIX — Cody Poteet had only been on the mound at Chase Field once before. But it was the site of one of his most memorable baseball moments.
That’s where Poteet made his MLB debut on May 12, 2021, tossing five strong innings and notching his first big league win. It was an impressive, long-awaited feat, given that he was 26 at the time and it had taken six seasons in the Minors to get there.
Nearly one year to the day later, Poteet returned to the rubber in the desert on Tuesday night. This time was different, though.
“I always will remember walking out on that field for the first time, but today the roof was open. Last time it was shut, I believe,” Poteet said.
However, that wasn’t the only notable difference. Instead of taking the hill in the first inning, Poteet didn’t pitch until the fourth in the Marlins’ 9-3 loss to the D-backs. But the hard-throwing righty again excelled, tossing four scoreless innings of relief after starter Jesús Luzardo had departed in the third.
Poteet didn’t spend much time in the bullpen in the Minors, as 96 of his 100 appearances were starts. And all seven of his big league outings in ‘21 came as a starter. But this year, there were no open spots in Miami’s starting rotation coming out of Spring Training, so Poteet made the club’s roster as a reliever.
So far, it’s working out quite well. On Tuesday, he struck out three and yielded only two singles and a walk, with no Arizona baserunner getting past first base against him. Poteet now has a 0.55 ERA (one run allowed in 16 1/3 innings), a 0.98 WHIP and 14 strikeouts against seven walks over eight appearances.
Instead of knowing that he’ll pitch every fifth day, Poteet now is unsure which games he’ll take the mound, which inning his outing will start and how long he’ll be out there.
“The biggest adjustment is just you never know,” Poteet explained. “When starting, you always know.”
The transition has appeared to be seamless. Poteet shared that he’s received tons of help and advice from other pitchers in the Marlins’ bullpen, citing Anthony Bass and Louis Head among those who have helped him learn how to get into a reliever’s rhythm.
Poteet flashed his potential immediately after getting called up last season, posting a 1.06 ERA over his first three starts. However, he had a 9.88 ERA over his final four outings, a stretch in which he dealt with a nagging right knee injury that eventually cut his season short. After June, he made only one start — a rehab outing for Triple-A Jacksonville in August that led to inflammation and ended his season.
Now healthy, Poteet is showing his stuff can thrive in a bullpen role. Last year, his four-seam fastball averaged 93.6 mph, per Statcast. On Tuesday, he threw his heater 20 times among his 51 pitches (32 strikes) — it averaged 95.7 mph and topped out at 97.6. And he’s using his changeup and slider to avoid barrels and generate whiffs.
“Cody’s been great,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s a guy that’s been able to come in, throw zeros, keep his pitch count down.”
On nights when Miami’s starters can’t work deep into the game — like Luzardo on Tuesday — Poteet has done an exceptional job of coming in and keeping the Marlins from needing to use a handful of relievers.
“It’s extremely huge, and I think we all let him know. I definitely let him know,” Luzardo said. “It’s nice to have a guy back there that you rely on and he goes and eats up innings and puts up zeros at the same time. It’s awesome to have him back there. Not only is he a great pitcher, but he’s also a great guy, so I love watching him succeed.”
If Poteet continues to pitch this well, perhaps he’ll earn more high-leverage spots late in games. Miami doesn’t have a set closer, opting to mix and match relievers to get through key situations, so it has the ability to stick with the hot hands.
No matter when or where he pitches, Poteet is ready to keep building off his early success.
“I think I’m just trying to settle into the game each time out,” Poteet said. “I don’t always know how long I’ll be in there, per se. I’m just trying to be the best I can on every pitch I throw, regardless of the situation.”