Ponce prepared for spring after ‘whirlwind’ offseason

If it seems like Cody Ponce's time since joining the Pirates' organization has been a whirlwind, it's because it has.

Since being acquired in July from the Milwaukee Brewers for Jordan Lyles, the right-handed Ponce has seen time with Double-A Altoona, Triple-A Indy, as well as the Arizona Fall League and Team USA.

"It was a whirlwind for the first couple weeks," Ponce said Saturday at PiratesFest. "It's getting acclimated, understanding who your teammates are now and how to become not just a teammate, but a friend and a brother and be able to create a relationship not just on the field, but off the field."

That whirlwind took him well into the offseason and led Ponce, 25, to being added to the 40-man roster, as well as joining fellow teammates and coaches on the Pirates' Care-A-Van this week prior to PiratesFest.

"This week started really well, got to start off with our new skipper," Ponce said. "Obviously, we're both new to the organization. It was really cool to pick his brain and find out what he wants to do with this ball club and what his goals are not just for this year, but for the years to come."

It's been a learning experience for Ponce this week as he continues to get to know the new coaching staff as well as his teammates.

"It's like joining a new brotherhood, it's tough, you don't know who you can talk to and how everybody is and whose personalities they are," Ponce said. "Everybody's been very welcoming with open arms and it's been really cool."

Following the end of the season for Indianapolis, Ponce went to the Arizona Fall League to hone his skills and continue working on being a starting pitcher. Ponce experienced success as a starter for Peoria, going 2-1 in five starts with a 2.35 ERA while averaging a little over one strikeout per inning.

"Fall league was really fun. I had a blast," Ponce said. "I got to play more baseball, I got to become a starter again which is why the Pirates sent me there, to get more innings and to keep progressing as a starter."

Once the AFL ended, Ponce joined Team USA for the 2019 WBSC Premier 12 tournament where the success continued as he went 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA in three starts. It was more than just a baseball experience with Team USA for Ponce though, as his journey with the team led him home to Mexico where his father's side of the family is from.

"Guadalajara was amazing because that's where I'm from, that's where my family is from," Ponce said. "My dad's side is from Mexico, so it was really cool to be able to see that side of my family and that type of history they had."

From there, Team USA moved on to the medal round located in Tokyo, Japan, where Ponce had his most enjoyable time.

"That was probably the most wonderful experience I've ever had playing baseball. I tell everybody at the end of my career I will play one year in Japan," Ponce said. "I would love to play in Tokyo, in the dome. The amount of noise and the way everything sounded with 45-50,000 people was unbelievable. It literally shook your feet as you were playing the game and I just had the opportunity to sit the bench, so I couldn't even tell you how it felt to be on the bump at that time, the adrenaline that could've been going through you."

As a result of playing deep into the offseason, Ponce has continued his throwing program and even threw a session at Pitt this week in front of pitching coach Oscar Marin.

"I haven't been able to take much time off this year, but it's not been a problem," Ponce said.

For now, Ponce enters spring training as a starting pitcher, but in his mind he's more than willing to accept any role given to him.

"I am going out there as a starter as of right now," Ponce said. "Whatever we need. If you need me in the backend of the bullpen, I'll do that. If you need me as a starter, I'll do that as well. I've been very multi-functional, which has kinda been nice. We're just gonna take this day-by-day and show up to spring training ready to go."

As the end of the offseason nears and Ponce's whirlwind slowly dwindles, one thing is certain, he's more than okay being on the go.

"It's definitely been a whirlwind, but I don't like not moving. Keep me moving and I'll be happy."

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