By Garett Mansfield
It may not be much of a stretch to picture Blake Cederlind as one of the class clowns during his days at Turlock (Calif.) High School. However, the 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher has been no joke on the mound since he joined Double-A Altoona in early May 2019.
“I keep it loose at all times but when I get in between the lines, I get after it,” Cederlind said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “Now, when it’s in the clubhouse or outside the field, I’m kind of known as a goofball.”
Baseball is a long season. Players spend nearly every day together from the start of spring training in February until the season ends either on or shortly after Labor Day. After that, there is the instructional league in the fall for select individuals before a short break for the holidays. Shortly after the start of the new year, the whole process gets repeated.
Personalities like Cederlind’s in the clubhouse, on the bus and in the bullpen go a long way to making the everyday grind of a season enjoyable. That doesn’t just impact his teammates, but his coaches, too.
“If Blake’s quiet, you know something’s wrong. So, it’s always nice when he has something smart to say,” said Curve pitching coach and former National League All-Star Joel Hanrahan. “It reminds me a lot of myself and, unfortunately, that’s why I like him.”
Cederlind worked with Hanrahan at the start of the 2018 season when both broke camp with Single-A West Virginia. By mid-season, the slender righty worked his way up to A-Adv. Bradenton after he kept South Atlantic League hitters to a .208 batting average, struck out 36 in 28.1 innings and posted a 2.86 ERA. Cederlind had a bumpy close to 2018 with a 7.59 ERA and opened 2019 back with the Marauders.
So far in 2019, he has been nearly untouchable. He allowed one run over his first seven games of the year before he teamed up with Hanrahan again following his promotion in early May. Since he joined the Curve bullpen, Cederlind has held a 0.96 ERA through his first 18 outings while lighting up Eastern League scoreboards with the ability to hit triple digits on every fastball he throws.
“Over the first couple of months,” Cederlind said, “I just didn’t feel like I was pitching as well as the numbers were saying. But recently, I feel like I have pitched better and the numbers are still the same.”
The acclaim for his success, in his words, are attributed to his work with Hanrahan.
“He keeps me polished,” Cederlind said of his pitching coach. “He knows me better than I know myself. I have to give him a ton of credit.”
Hanrahan is just as complementary of the reliever.
“He has a power fastball and he’s found some other weapons to go with it,” said Hanrahan. “He has three pitches that he’s throwing and he trusts all three of them right now. He’s really turning into a pro.”
Cederlind formally became a pro when the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted the right-hander during the fifth round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft and he signed a few days later. He pitched two years at Merced College, a junior college in California nearly 40 minutes from his hometown of Turlock.
His introduction to the Pirates developmental system came from a familiar face to Curve, Pa.: fellow Turlock grad and former Curve infielder Kevin Kramer.
“He gave me the rundown of everything and told me what to expect,” Cederlind said of Kramer’s short orientation. “He’s been a big help along the way.”
Kramer and Cederlind graduated from Turlock three years apart and did not share the field at their California high school. However, Blake’s older brother, Zack, did play alongside Kramer in little league, travel ball and high school. Now with Cederlind two levels from Pittsburgh, the two Turlock kids could share a laugh as locker mates at PNC Park in the to-too-distant future.