Normally its a big story when a player, particularly when its a pitcher, jumps from Double-A to the bigs in one season. Unfortunately for Billy Sadler, that's not the case in the Arizona Fall League. Sadler's own AFL teammate, Patrick Misch, made that same jump this year, but as they collect a handful of innings in this post season instructional league Sadler isn't concerned with what makes a great story, he's concerned with what makes a great career.
"Being down here, this is truly a blessing and an honor. There's a lot of guys out here with great talent, and to be able to put yourself in this position, to be around all these guys, it's exciting."
Don't assume this is a 'star struck' youngster though. Sadler and Misch both got the call every minor leaguer wants this year, and the stars don't really get any bigger than Barry Bonds. The young right hander is out here to get better, to showcase himself and prove he belongs in the bigs for the entire season next year. Through the 30th, Sadler had thrown 7.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League, collecting a win and three saves without allowing a run. Perhaps more impressive for this 'closer in training' is 12 strikeouts in those seven-plus innings.
For a pitcher who once just threw the ball as hard as he could, the change has been dramatic.
"Early in my career I was 'effectively wild' but over the past two and a half years I've been with some great pitching coaches who have helped me on the path to 'pitch' instead of just 'throw.' Now I'm starting to get to the point where I can spot my pitches, hit the corners. Now I can actually throw my fastball where I want to throw it, and its the same with my breaking pitches. I've learned I don't have to go all out every time I throw my breaking pitch. Now I can just get it in there with a 2-0 curveball and then when I need to bury a hitter, I can bury a hitter."
Sadler showed it in his brief call up. After struggling during his first two outings, he showed what he was capable of on September 21st when he struck out the side against Milwaukee. Sadler had moved up the ranks on the strength of that 'effectively wild' movement. Often, when an organization stresses control, that movement goes by the wayside, but Sadler knows that is a strength.
"The movement comes from being loose and free and easy with my mechanics, and just making sure I'm not overthrowing. But what I realized is that I can spot the pitch, even with the motion. At the lower levels movement is enough, but as you move up you realize that its about making your pitch, quality pitches."
And because of his rapid ascension, Sadler has gotten to see exactly what the differences are at the different levels.
"Nothing is ever perfect, but as you go up through the levels the talent, the skill, and the knowledge is that much greater at each level. The game just becomes smoother. From a pitching standpoint the thing I've noticed is that the hitters, as you get higher in the levels, they have a lot better knowledge of the strike zone, so you can't be wild."
It's a great explanation, but not exactly 'headline' material. He's been working with his pitching coaches, listening, learning. Between Trevor Wilson and Bob Stanley, Sadler has had 20+ years of Major League experience to soak up. Surely these two, and the myriad others Sadler has worked with, have given him some sort of mantra. Something simple to hang his hat on. Luckily, Sadler has that 'bumper sticker' quote all ready to go.
"The only way you get to the big leagues is if you are effective in the strike zone, because you aren't going to the big leagues if you can't throw strikes."
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