Pittsburgh Pirates: Former Pitcher Signs With a New NPB Team

Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Cody Ponce (44) takes over to start the second inning of the MLB
Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Cody Ponce (44) takes over to start the second inning of the MLB / Sam Greene/The Enquirer via Imagn
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Former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Cody Ponce has signed with a new club in Japan's NPB

Yet another former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher is headed overseas. Earlier this offseason, the team released Thomas Hatch to allow him to pursue opportunities internationally, Andre Jackson followed last week. Now, a member of the Pirate pitching staff in 2020 and 2021 is set for a third consecutive season in Japan.

On Wednesday, news broke that former Pirate pitcher Cody Ponce has signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. The NPB is the highest level of professional baseball in Japan.

The Pirates acquired Ponce from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Jordan Lyles at the 2019 trade deadline. Ponce made his MLB debut with the Pirates in 2020, pitching in 5 games while making 3 starts. Then in 2021, Ponce pitched in 15 games with 13 of those coming in relief.

Across his two seasons in the majors, Ponce pitched 55.1 innings, posting a 5.86 ERA and a 5.47 FIP. Ponce walked 6.9% of batters faced, struck batters out at a 19.6% clip, and allowed 13 home runs for a woeful 2.11 HR/9.

Ponce has also pitched in NPB the previous two seasons. Pitching for the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ponce posted a 3.47 ERA in 135 innings pitched across the 2022 and 2023 season. This included a no-hitter in August of 2022.

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