The more I find out about Ryan Sadowski, the more unlikely his story becomes.
This is a guy who, at the University of Florida, pitched 6.2 innings in seven appearances in 2002 (accumulating a 8.10 ERA) and a third of an inning in 2003 (he faced two batters and walked both).
So a grand total of seven innings in two years.
Yet the Giants made him their 12th-round pick in 2003.
I called VP of baseball operations Bobby Evans to find out.
He said Dick Tidrow, the Giants’ VP of player personnel, saw Sadowski at a scouting workout before the draft.
“He saw something he liked,” Evans said, “something he could work with.”
But he got off to an inauspicious start. At Salem-Keiser that summer, Sadowski began suffering from headaches and was so sick by season’s end that he couldn’t pitch in a playoff game. It wasn’t until he went home to South Florida that doctors diagnosed a subdural hematoma. He had emergency brain surgery to remove the accumulation of blood and spent two days in intensive care. Sadowski’s best guess is that he suffered the injury when he fell in the shower early in the season.
“You’ve got to give him credit,” Evans said. “He’s worked hard at every level of the minor leagues. He’s not a guy that people have talked about. He just worked hard and learned how to pitch. He’s got a great cutter that’s tough on right-handed hitters. He has a solid slider, change-up, breaking ball. He throws down in the zone a lot, so when he makes a mistake, it’s down rather than up over the plate.”
Sadowski’s emergence after six years in the minor leagues is a testament, Evans says, not just to Sadowski’s work ethic but also to the coaching that young Giants players receive in the farm system.
“I think maybe the Giants do a better job than most organizations in developing players,” Evans said. “It doesn’t matter how high or low you get drafted. You’re going to get the coaching and you’re going to get a chance to earn your way onto the major-league roster.”
So maybe Sadowski’s story isn’t so much an unlikely one as it is simply an old-fashioned baseball tale, in which a fairly unremarkable guy with a bit of raw talent works really hard, listens to his coaches, rides the minor-league buses for six years, learns how to pitch and, without the slightest bit of name recognition, arrives one summer day to play in his first big league game.
And he pitches six scoreless innings to get the win. And the team lets him hang around for a second start. And he earns a second win in another shutout.
As Evans said, you have to give a lot of credit to Tidrow. Of all the pitchers on that 2002 University of Florida team – the top two had 3.24 and 3.88 ERAs — Sadowski is the only one to make the major leagues. If Sadowski keeps winning, I’ll track down Tidrow to find out exactly what he saw, and how many more like him Tidrow has tucked away in Norwich or Fresno or San Jose.