In the 2020 MLB draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates used the 31st overall pick on right-handed pitcher Carmen Mlodzinski out of the University of South Carolina.
With no minor league season that year, Mlodzinski made his professional debut in 2021 with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the High-A affiliate of the Pirates.
With Greensboro, Mlodzinski posted a a 3.93 ERA across 14 appearances, all of which were starts. The following season, Mlodzinski spent the entire season with Double-A Altoona, where he made 27 appearances, the majority (22) came as a starter.
With Altoona, Mlodzinski was inconsistent and finished the season 6-8 with a spotty 4.78 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 105.1 innings.
The inconsistences as a starter on the mound led the Pirates to make a change with the right-hander’s role prior to the start of the 2023 season.
For the first time, Mlodzinkski is being used as a full-time reliever, and the Pirates’ prospect is getting much better results out of the bullpen.
Through his first 17 appearances out of the bullpen with Triple-A Indianapolis this year, Mlodzinski is 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA. He has struck out 25 and has yielded only two home runs across 22.2 innings.
“We’re excited about the progress he’s made this year. He’s obviously in a little bit different of a role… He’s had a couple of hiccups here and there at Triple-A. But by and large, he’s been pretty effective and successful. He’s on a good path,” general manager Ben Cherington said.
For Mlodzinski, his role isn’t the only thing that has changed.
While there are certainly differences between being used as a starter and a reliever, Mlodzinski has made a number of other adjustments which have also been impactful in his successful season.
“He’s made some real changes since last year. He’s changed his arm pattern. He’s changed the pitches themselves. He’s changed the way he’s attacking hitters,” Cherington said.
Within the past week or so, the Pirates have shuffled their bullpen a bit with a number of roster moves.
Though Mlodzinski wasn’t among the players added to the Pirates’ 26-man roster in the latest slew of transactions, it doesn’t mean he won’t reach Pittsburgh at some point this season.
The right-hander is just one step away, one call away from being able to call himself a big leaguer. Nobody knows for sure when that call might come, but it certainly remains a possibility.
“I think anybody on that pitching staff in Indy – if they’re effective, if they’re pitching well, if there’s strikes, if we’re seeing pitch qualities there – then absolutely they’re in consideration here. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the 40-man, not on the 40-man. So he’s in that mix…
“He’s one of a handful of guys down there that we can look at and say ‘Ok, we’ve got guys who have a chance to keep developing but ultimately who could have a chance to come up and help us at some point,’” Cherington said.