Connor Sadzeck was an ideal candidate for the Texas Rangers to utilize in the growing MLB trend of “opener” starts.
The idea is to start a power pitcher for an inning, maybe two, then use another pitcher who may not throw as hard for several innings before the bullpen takes over in the sixth or seventh.
Sadzeck, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound right-hander who has hit 100 mph on speed guns, got his first major league start Friday and threw one scoreless inning as the Rangers beat San Diego, 4-0. Left-hander Yohander Mendez threw the next six innings for Texas.
Sadzeck has made six major league appearances since he was called up Aug. 31 and has not allowed a run in 41/3 innings. He figures he might be used in other short starts like Friday’s.
“I’ve been settled in, and to get that as an opener was kind of cool,” said Sadzeck, a 2010 Crystal Lake Central graduate. “They toyed with the idea when we were in Oakland and gave me a heads-up when we were in Anaheim. (Manager Jeff) Banister texted me on our off day (Thursday) here in San Diego.”
Sadzeck, 26, has been close to making the majors for a couple of years. This season was his third spring training with the major league team. Finally, Aug. 31, he joined two other area players this season – Prairie Ridge grads Nick Martini and Kevin Kaczmarski – in making it to the big leagues. Martini is in a playoff chase with Oakland, and Kaczmarski was sent back to Triple-A Las Vegas by the New York Mets.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Sadzeck said. “It’s cliché to say, but it’s a dream come true. It’s all any of us ever look forward to as a kid as we’re playing and growing up. It’s pretty surreal to see it happen and to be where I imagined myself all those years ago.”
Sadzeck felt he started the season well with the Rangers’ Triple-A Round Rock Express. He slumped a bit in May, then strained an oblique muscle that landed him on the disabled list for six weeks.
“You couldn’t help but think, ‘Man, this timing kind of [stinks],’ ” Sadzeck said. “I was feeling like I was getting close and seeing what was happening. But it all worked out, and I was able to come back and feel great and still able to get up here.”
Sadzeck plans on playing half a winter season in the Dominican League, from mid-October until Thanksgiving, then continue working out in New Mexico until spring training.
Sadzeck did not get a chance to connect with Martini at their recent series, but he saw Kaczmarski early in the Triple-A season.
“We were able to talk a little bit, which was cool,” Sadzeck said. “I hadn’t seen him probably since high school. It was wild to be on the same field after all those years.”