CHICAGO – Connor Sadzeck spent the last week in Arlington, Texas, waiting for the Rangers to determine his baseball future. The big right-hander had been designated for assignment by the organization just before opening day on March 28 and was stuck in the 10-day holding pattern where a team has to make the decision of trading, releasing or outrighting the player.
“It was definitely a long week,” he said. “It was an emotional roller coaster.”
That lows of being DFA’d were replaced by the high of getting traded to the Mariners on Monday and a chance to stay in the big leagues. The Mariners acquired Sadzeck for minor-league pitcher Grant Anderson and put him on the 40-man roster. Because Sadzeck is out of minor-league options – the reason he was designated by the Rangers – the Mariners had to place him on the active 25-man roster. They optioned right-hander Nick Rumbelow to Class AAA Tacoma to make room.
“I’m really excited to be here,” he said. “These guys look they’re having a ton of fun. I think it shows in the amount of wins they have. I’m so excited for the opportunity to be a part of this ballclub.”
Sadzeck arrived in Seattle on Tuesday and threw a bullpen session on Wednesday morning at T-Mobile Park before the team flew to Chicago. The last time he faced hitters in a game was in his final appearance in the Cactus League on March 26.
“It’s been a while, but I’ve continued to throw off the mound,” he said. “I threw a bullpen on Sunday in Texas and another one Wednesday morning. I feel ready to go. I’m ready to get in a game and face hitters again.”
Manager Scott Servais will look to fit Sadzeck into a game soon, but won’t force it.
“I’m guessing he’ll pitch in the first couple games of this series,” Servais said. “We’ll see how it goes. If there is a chance to get him in there today, we’ll use him.”
Sadzeck has a fastball that can touch 100 mph. It’s his best pitch. He also has a slider and a curveball that he feels are improving.
“My fastball is kind of what I’m known for,” he said. “I think the secondary stuff came around in September. My slider really played up and I think that’s the game plan to complement my fastball so I don’t have to be as fine and feel that pressure to throw that fastball where I needed to throw it.”
The added use of the slider is something the Mariners’ pitching coaches discussed with Sadzeck on Tuesday. While the stuff and velocity have always been there, the command has been an issue. In his September call-up last season, Sadzeck walked 11 batters in 8 1/3 innings pitched. His career walk rates throughout the minors have been more than 10 percent, which isn’t ideal. But if he can harness it?
“We’ll take a shot,” Servais said. “When you are a young guy like that and you have that kind of ability, you are going to continue to get a lot of chances. And we are going to give him one here.”
Encarnacion out of the lineup again
Edwin Encarnacion was out of the starting lineup Friday afternoon as a precaution. The veteran slugger felt some discomfort in his hand/wrist in the penultimate game of the recent homestand. He was scratched from Tuesday’s finale.
“We thought we’d give him an extra day,” Servais said. “It’s probably going to be about 44 or 45 degrees today. He’ll be available to pinch hit if needed.”
Daniel Vogelbach got the start in Encarnacion’s place for the second straight game. Vogelbach had a pair of hits, including the game-winning homer in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Angels.
“Vogey controls the strike zone so well,” Servais said. “He doesn’t chase a ton. But the other night, he got the big hit for us. We want to keep all these guys going. So if somebody doesn’t feel 100 percent, the combination Edwin, Jay (Bruce), (Ryon) Healy and Vogey, three of them are going to be in there, so it gives you the opportunity to get a day off.”
Pitching prospect excitement
With an off day in Chicago, general manager Jerry Dipoto did what any other person would do in a similar situation, go to dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in the downtown area. But most people wouldn’t also be watching minor-league games on their phone at the restaurant while dining.
But with the 2019 minor-league season opening Thursday, Dipoto wanted to watch his re-vamped farm system start its season. He was particularly happy with what he saw from his starting pitching prospects – Erik Swanson (Class AAA Tacoma), Justin Dunn (Class AA Arkansas) and Logan Gilbert (Class A West Virginia).
“We had some great outings,” Dipoto said.
Swanson was brilliant for the Rainiers, who opened the season in Sacramento. The big right-hander pitched five shutout innings, allowing six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. The Rainiers eventually lost in extra innings.
Dunn gave up a first-inning run on three hits as he worked to find a rhythm and his command against the Tulsa Drillers. But he settled in after that, flashing a lively fastball and solid breaking pitches. He worked the next four innings scoreless, allowing just two more hits while striking out seven batters and walking one.
Gilbert, the Mariners’ first-round selection from the 2018 MLB draft, made his professional debut for West Virginia. Unlike his one Cactus League outing where he looked nervous and uncertain, Gilbert dominated from the first pitch, flashing a fastball that touched 96 mph and exuding confidence. He worked four shutout innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out five and walking one. One of the two hits that Gilbert allowed came against Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is on a rehab stint with Class A Greenville.