Saints’ Funderburk working his way onto Twins’ radar

16 July 2023

Due to COVID, 2020 will always be known as minor-league baseball’s lost season. But Saints left-handed reliever Cody Funderburk will remember it as the year he found himself as a pitcher.

Three years later, a 25-pound weight loss, a commitment to fitness and two new effective pitches have pushed the former 15th-round draft pick very much into the Twins’ plans.

“He’s an under-the-radar guy who is getting more on the radar this year,” Saints pitching coach Pete Larson said prior to the Saints’ 4-2 win over the Durham Bulls on Saturday at CHS Field.

The 6-foot-4 Funderburk was a 250-pound power-hitting first baseman/pitcher at Dallas Baptist University when the Twins drafted him in 2018 as a pitcher. He had a lackluster 2019 season at Cedar Rapids (1-3, 4.68 ERA) before word came that the 2020 minor-league season would be canceled.

“I was really nervous about the whole year because no one really knew what was going on,” the 26-year-old Funderburk said. “I knew that it was a year where I could either change my projectory or I could just fizzle out and I would be done.”

He decided to get to work, relying on his wife-to-be to help him eat right and the mild temps in Florida to get used to his new body on the mound.

“That year was make or break for a lot of guys,” Funderburk said. “As much as COVID sucked not playing, I’m thankful for it because it gave me a year of development. Along with losing the weight I got stronger and more mobile.”

The transformation was easy for everyone to see when he reported to spring training in 2021.

“With no season I think it was a chance to start figuring yourself out a little more,” Saints pitching coach Pete Larson said. “I think he was one of those guys who really ran with it. He knows himself at a really high level now because of that lost year.”

Last season, Larson, who was Funderburk’s coach at Double-A Wichita, approached him about adding to his pitch arsenal, which basically consisted of a four-seam fastball and a  “gyro” slider, which mostly breaks down. Funderburk was running into trouble because righties were sitting on pitches on the inside of the plate and lefties were looking away.

Adding a slider and a sinker changed that. Funderburk finished the 2022 season with a 10-5 record and was a Double-A all-star.

“They came to me in the middle of the year about adding the two pitches,” Funderburk said, “and I worked on them the rest of the year. Then, having the off-season to refine the pitches really helped.

“The sinker has really (been big) facing left-handed hitters. It gives me a pitch that goes in to them, so they don’t just eliminate the inner half. And the slider has been really good this year; it’s been a big strikeout pitch.”

Funderburk has been particularly effective of late. He entered Saturday’s game having allowed only three hits in his last five outings (6 2/3 innings) while striking out 10. He pitched a scoreless ninth, adding a strikeout.

Overall, he has 47 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings, pitching in both long and short relief.

“Lefties are extremely valuable,” Larson said, “especially ones who can throw multiple innings and face both sides of the plate, too. He’s put himself in a good spot. He’s worked really hard, and when you know yourself at a very high level like he does he can maximize his strengths.

“He’s starting to see the success he can have in different roles.”


Anthony Prato broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh with a solo home run, his second in as many games and sixth of the season. Jair Camargo added a solo shot in the eighth.

Brent Headrick started for the Saints and pitched three shutout innings, striking out four. Simeon Woods Richardson followed in a “piggyback start” and pitched five strong innings, allowing two runs on two hits.

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