Connor Sadzeck has been a starting pitcher for the bulk of his tenure in the Texas Rangers organization. So when the current RoughRiders’ right-hander was moved to the bullpen in mid-June on a full-time basis, it was a drastic shift for the 6-foot-7, 25-year-old hurler.
I told our pitching coordinator (Danny Clark) when he presented me with it, I said I figured it was a question that was going to be asked at some point this year. I don’t know if it’s long term or if it’s short term, but I just told him, if it’s something that you guys see as good for my career and it’ll help out the big-league club in the future, then I’m all-in,” Sadzeck said.
His first relief appearance came June 16th against San Antonio at Dr. Pepper Ballpark when he got a win after tossing four innings of scoreless ball against the Missions.
This isn’t Sadzeck’s first stint as a reliever, but it’s his first time coming out of the bullpen where starting is not part of the equation.
I have (relieved) in small stints, but every time I’ve thrown out of the bullpen, it was always with the idea that I’m still a starter,” Sadzeck said. “I went to the (Arizona) Fall League (in 2015) and threw out of the bullpen there, but it was like ‘Hey, you’re still a starter.’ This is the first time where it’s hey, you’re strictly a reliever. You’re going to throw whenever we need you, and that’s just kind of been the biggest shift, not knowing when you’re going to throw.”
Sadzeck, currently the Rangers’ No. 10 prospect per mlb.com, does see various positives about the move to the bullpen, like the fact that he could pitch on almost any day he heads to the ballpark compared to pitching in a game only on his designated day to start.
He also likes the fact that his daily routine hasn’t really changed all that much compared to his days as a starter, only that there have been minor tweaks to his throwing program.
Thus far, Sadzeck has made nine appearances as a reliever since the switch and is 1-2 with a 10.13 ERA, but ‘Riders catcher Jose Trevino knows it’s only a matter of time before the hard-throwing righty finds a groove in his new role.
He has great stuff, for sure big-league stuff. Off to a slow start, but I think he’s going to get it. Once his mentality’s in the right place, then he’s good to go,” Trevino said. “You know when he comes out of the bullpen, he’s going to be the aggressor, put the pressure on the other team.”
Ranger fans who closely follow the farm system know Sadzeck’s fastball can run as high as 99 MPH on the radar gun. And regardless of whether he’s starting or relieving, his heater remains the centerpiece of his pitching repertoire.
Of course, when he was starting, he had to approach the game from a bigger-picture mentality so he would have the same zing on and command of his pitches, especially on his fastball, in the sixth inning as he did earlier in the game.
However, now that he’s coming out of the bullpen, his mentality has shifted in a way while his primary goal of retiring opposing hitters has not.
That’s something we talked about. In the past, I’d build up my velocity. I’d still have the high-velocity first couple of innings, but I’d kind of empty the tank in that sixth, seventh, eighth inning and you’d really see my velocity go up,” Sadzeck said.
It’s more stick to your strengths, throw the fastball as hard as you can, spin it as hard as you can. Obviously, there’s going to be certain situations with runners on and certain things you got to do, but there’s less of that going on in the reliever role where it’s more hey, here’s my stuff, let’s get after it.”
An 11th-round pick by the Rangers in 2011 out of Howard College in Big Spring, Sadzeck says the idea of him moving to the bullpen has been floated in the past, but he wasn’t ready to make that shift and the Rangers kept him in a starting role.
But now, with the Rangers experiencing bullpen issues at the big-league level for most of 2017, which mean opportunities for others in the organization, like him, he sees the shift as a positive. Especially if it leads him to realize his dream of pitching in Arlington.
I wouldn’t say I’m ready to give up on starting. I still believe in myself as a starter,” Sadzeck said. “I think as of right now, just where I’m at in my career, I want to get my foot in the door and if that means moving to the bullpen (then so be it).
If I do what I need to do here and I get up there quicker, then I think that’s a goal, and (I’ll) go from there. But being 25, turning 26 in October, I really want to get my foot in the door, at least be banging on the door. If this is an easier route, so be it.”
On September 1, big-league rosters expand from 25 to 40 players, and Sadzeck is one player who the Rangers could call up at that time.
Trevino is another ‘Riders regular who could also be in Arlington later this season, and the current Frisco backstop has little doubt in his fire-balling teammate’s ability to make a successful transition from starting to relieving.
Certain guys are going to get it quick, certain guys are going to take a little process. I feel like he’s staying with the process and staying within himself. I know he’s going to figure it out,” Trevino said.