Sadler ready to help ‘Pen

With the Giants bullpen in a state of flux, any number of relievers could step up and grab a spot. Chief among them is Billy Sadler, a longtime minor league closer ready to make the final step to the majors.

In 2005, the San Francisco Giants took a big chance. After having a breakout season, the Giants left Double-A closer Billy Sadler unprotected for the Rule 5 draft. Many people thought the hard-throwing right-hander from Louisiana State would be a sure pick.

Lucky for the Giants, he wasn't taken. Now the 25-year old has made his major league debut and could make an impact on a bullpen in flux in 2007.

"I've had some trouble with walks, that's obvious," said Sadler, upbeat about his spring in major league camp. "But other than that, I'm starting to feel comfortable with my mechanics and everything."

The right-hander has already been optioned to Fresno, after giving up six walks and four runs in 5 1/3 innings, but he has shown some impressive stuff that makes his return quite likely.

Sadler's journey to the majors has taken a little longer than expected, as he has had problems with his control throughout his career. After having a strong 2005 season where he only walked 33 in 84 1/3 innings, he issued 29 walks in just 45 2/3 innings in 2006, but was still effective and got a promotion to Triple-A, and then to the majors.

Although there has been a lot of talk by some about how Double-A has become a bit of a pitcher's paradise against the nightmare they sometimes face in Triple-A, Sadler plays it down. He thinks any difference has more to do with the hitters that pitchers face.

"The hitters have a better sense of the strike zone, they're more patient, they hit more mistakes," he said. "Because in Triple-A, you have more veteran players... in Double-A you're going to have more of your younger players."

Sadler does this by not letting the pressure get to him as a closer.

"You can make it a different type of approach," he said of closing. "But I've always been told, and this is by better players, that it doesn't matter what inning you're pitching as a reliever. You're going in there to close the game, every inning."

That attitude has made the right-hander one of the few Giants talked about in a serious way about closing. Although he wasn't a big part of this year's competition, Sadler's mid-90's fastball and big curveball keeps him in the talk.

And although it appears Armando Benitez will be the team's closer to start 2007, there is an interesting setup for future battles between Sadler and Brian Wilson, both former LSU Tigers. It's very possible one could be setting up the other in the very near future.

In the meantime, Sadler's future will be in Fresno, but a call-up could come soon. The Giants bullpen situation is in disarray coming into the 2007 season. If the 25-year-old starts the season hot in Fresno, it may not take long for the Giants to take a chance on him.

He's not too worried about where he'll be playing though.

"I just want to have a uniform," Sadler said, as he modestly puts it.


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