Right-handed pitcher Casey Sadler started to open eyes with an impressive start to Spring Training, throwing five hitless innings in his first two starts. His hot start was halted in today’s game against Minnesota, during which he gave up three earned runs in 2.1 innings, with two strikeouts and a walk. The big blow came in the first inning, when he allowed a two-run homer to Twins first baseman Kennys Vargas.
The big difference today was Sadler’s inability to consistently keep the ball down in the strike zone. He explained that this typically occurs whenever he is in too big of a hurry on the mound. He said that it is key for him to be patient and focus on driving his sinker down in the zone on a more consistent basis.
Even with today’s poor start factored in, Sadler is looking like a legitimate depth option for the Pirates this year, and now finds himself with a much better shot at cracking the rotation at some point in 2015.
Earlier this week the Pirates pitching depth took a hit when Brandon Cumpton underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. Cumpton was likely to be the seventh or eighth option in the starting rotation for the Pirates, and one of the early season depth options, but his injury will likely slide Sadler up to that position on the depth chart.
“I feel bad for Cump, he’s one of my good friends and I wish him all the best,” Sadler said. “But if the opportunity comes, I’m going to do him proud and I’m going to do the Pirates proud and do my job covering that spot.”
If the last couple of years are any indication, the chances are high that the Pirates will need Sadler to contribute on some level this season. The Pirates used eight starters last year, and 12 in 2013, including nine that made five starts or more. Sadler was needed last year in a limited role, throwing just 10.1 innings in relief. But the experience he gained is what has made him feel confident so far in Spring Training and heading into the season.
“The little taste last year gives me a different kind of confidence,” Sadler explained. “You feel more comfortable with the atmosphere. That’s when you can settle down and do what you want to do.”
As is often the case with most young pitchers just entering the majors, Sadler admitted that he was giving the opposing hitters too much respect. With last year’s experience under his belt, Sadler’s approach will be to attack the opposing hitters, no matter what the back of their baseball cards say.
“You’re going to get the best of me, and if you get me, you get me. And that’s something I’m really going to be focused on, just attacking every hitter that I face. It doesn’t matter who it is. The four-hole guy, the nine-hole guy, it doesn’t matter. And that is something that I think I’m going to have to do to be successful.”
Sadler has not yet been given a specific role heading into the season, but he feels comfortable at filling any need the Pirates may have.
“It’s all going to come down to what they need. They’ve started stretching me out as a starter and I appreciate that. If the same kind of situation happens [as last year] and they need a guy for the bullpen, the ultimate goal is to be there. Doesn’t matter what my role is.”
Sadler could prove to be an important depth piece for the Pirates this season. If he continues to attack hitters and get ground balls with his strong sinker, he’ll be a viable bullpen or starting option.