Connor Sadzeck on the road to recovery
By Nathan Barnett
For pitcher Connor Sadzeck, the road to Frisco and a spot on the
Rangers 40-man roster was a unique one.
The Crystal Lake, Illinois native was selected by Texas in the
11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft after his freshman year at Howard
College in Big Spring, Texas, located 45 miles northeast of Midland.
He has returned to play baseball in the Lone Star State once again and
is shining in Frisco, with the ultimate goal of playing in Arlington
for the Rangers.
After a successful first full professional season in 2013, one
in which he won 12 games for the Single-A Hickory Crawdads and led the
South Atlantic League with a 2.25 ERA, things did not go according to
plan for Sadzeck. During the offseason, he had “Tommy John” surgery
and was unable to pitch the following year. However, he came back even
stronger than ever. His fastball was clocked as fast as 101 miles per
hour, according to Baseball America.
On the road to recovery, Sadzeck and his newfound velocity made
the journey out west in 2015. Two years later and 3,000 miles away
from his last stop in Hickory, he experienced many up and downs during
11 appearances with the High Desert Mavericks of the California
“I was feeling it out and learning how to pitch again,” Sadzeck
said. “I was throwing a lot harder than I had been, so I was just
learning how to pitch with that newfound velocity.”
On the first day of August, Sadzeck received his promotion to
Frisco. The highlight of his month with the RoughRiders came on August
20 at Tulsa. Sadzeck pitched six no-hit innings against the Drillers
in his only win of the season with Frisco. He threw 88 pitches in the
outing before he was relieved, which was his highest pitch count since
returning from the surgery.
“Last year, I felt pretty good coming back,” Sadzeck said. “I
felt strong last year. I think I had a little stint two starts into
the season where the shoulder flared up a little bit, which was
normal. But I felt pretty strong throughout the year.”
During the offseason, while pitching with the Surprise Saguaros
of the Arizona Fall League, Sadzeck received a call from the Texas
Rangers sharing the news that he had been added to the 40-man roster.
“Our pitching coordinator gave me a call in the morning and let
me know I was going to be added,” Sadzeck said. “But the toughest part
was I couldn’t say anything until it was officially released. It
didn’t feel real because I couldn’t share it with anyone for about
five hours until it was released. But it was awesome and a great day.”
When the news of Sadzeck’s addition was finally released, the
first people he called were his parents. The tight-lipped pitcher had
managed to not say a word to anyone, even his mother and father, until
it was official.
“I didn’t want to jeopardize anything, so I did not let them
know right away,” Sadzeck said. “I know they would be excited and
probably tell some people. So I didn’t share it. But I called them
first after it was announced, and they were obviously ecstatic.”
Many former Riders, and current Frisco pitcher Jose Leclerc,
joined Sadzeck on the Rangers 40-man roster. This year, in his second
season at the Double-A level, Sadzeck has been focusing on making
several adjustments to help improve his skills on the mound.
“So far this year, I have been kind of dialing it back and
learning how to stay within my mechanics,” Sadzeck said. “It has been
helping me keep the ball in the zone. I am very excited about this
year and seeing how I can bounce back a little better down the stretch
If his first start was any indication, Sadzeck may be in for
another milestone campaign like the one he had three years ago with
Hickory. On April 8, Frisco’s second game of the season on the road
against Northwest Arkansas, Sadzeck hurled six scoreless innings and
only allowed two hits in a win.
“I felt like I was just pitching to contact, throwing my
fastball over the plate,” Sadzeck said. “The velocity was good and my
breaking pitches were effective as well.”
Sadzeck followed up the impressive first start with another win
the following week in the RoughRiders’ second home game at Dr Pepper
Ballpark. He held the same Naturals to just one run….striking out
five batters in his second straight victory.
Sadzeck is currently ranked the No. 27 prospect in the Rangers
organization, according to MLB Pipeline. He is one of six players on
the RoughRiders roster listed in either MLB Pipeline or Baseball
America’s list of the Top 30 Rangers prospects. Although the
expectations are even higher this year, Sadzeck is prepared to succeed
in Frisco this season.
“I think last year I just put a lot of pressure on myself
because I was coming off ‘Tommy John’ surgery, and knew I had the
possibility of being added to the 40-man roster,” Sadzeck said. “I
added that stress to myself. But this year I can kind of rest easier,
knowing that I’m healthy, and I can be a little more relaxed.”
Sadzeck is one of the 17 players returning to the Riders this
season, including four of the five pitchers in the starting rotation.
This year’s Frisco team, which is off to the best start in team
history, begins with a whole lot of veteran experience, as the group
continues their quest for a first-half division title, a berth in the
Texas League playoffs, and their first league championship since 2004.