Casey Sadler: Mariners’ mix of ‘different styles of arms’ key for bullpen
The Mariners, as a whole, entered the 2021 season with fairly tempered expectations. That was especially true for Seattle’s bullpen.
That group was made up mostly of waiver claims, converted starters and minor league free agent signings. Yet the bullpen wound up being the strength of the Mariners’ season, playing a massive part in Seattle winning 90 games and staying in playoff contention into Game 162.
One pitcher in particular who stood out for the Mariners this season was right-handed hurler Casey Sadler, who joined the franchise in late 2020 as a waiver claim after he was designated for assignment by the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs’ loss was the Mariners’ gain as Sadler was part of a killer trio of relievers who all happened to have last names starting with the letter ‘S’: Sadler, Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider.
Sadler threw 40 1/3 innings over 42 appearances, posting a 0.67 ERA with 37 strikeouts. In fact, after returning from a shoulder injury early in the year, the 31 year old finished the season as one of the best relievers in baseball. He set franchise records both in single-season ERA and with 29 straight appearances without allowing an earned run.
On Wednesday, Sadler joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob to discuss his season and why the Mariners’ bullpen was able to play such a big part in the team’s success, and “fun” was a word he used to describe the team’s surprising run in 2021.
“I know we were all heartbroken at the end of it when everything was all said and done. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that,” he said.
Sadler added that the Mariners had “probably the most fun” clubhouse he’s been in during his MLB career, which started in 2014.
“For it to be over and to have to have everybody go home and part ways, it was tough. It was tough at the end,” he said. “We wanted it real bad and we wanted it for the fan base. It was amazing there that last weekend playing in front of that crowd. We really appreciated it. We’re all looking forward to next year.”
Not only was the clubhouse fun, but so was the bullpen during games.
Sadler said that camaraderie, “going to work with your buddies” and just the effort and time put in all goes a long way in terms of having a successful bullpen, but he explained that the Mariners having so many different types of relievers was more important than people may realize.
“It definitely doesn’t hurt when you’ve got eight or 10 different styles of arms coming out of that bullpen depending on where you’re at in the lineup, what switch might happen if there’s a pinch-hit situation,” he said.
The Mariners commanded a right-handed heavy bullpen with Sadler, Sewald, Steckenrider and, later on, Diego Castillo leading the charge, but for the most part it didn’t matter that the ‘pen lacked a shutdown lefty arm. All four of those pitchers in particular present different angles, velocity and types of pitches, which allowed Mariners manager Scott Servais to have an array of weapons to choose from in any given game.
“I don’t know what’s going through Servais’ head, but I can imagine he’s kind of licking his chops a little bit when he looks down there and he can go to any one of the guys and have any kind of look he’s looking for. I think that definitely helps,” Sadler said.
Returning from injury
As noted, Sadler missed time in 2021 with a shoulder injury. After a good month of April, Sadler spent all of May, June and most of July recovering and rehabbing before returning to dominate from that point onward.
Sadler said that being able to do his rehab work at T-Mobile Park, which wouldn’t have been an option in 2020 due to the pandemic, was a huge blessing that helped with his overall performance.
“To be here when (my teammates) come into town when they play home games and still have that kind of face-to-face conversations and still be a part of that group, I think that definitely helps when you’re kind of inserted (back onto the roster),” he said. “I think it just speaks to the testament of the group of guys we have here. Like, ‘OK, go take care of what you need to take care of and when you come back, just continue where you left off.’ I think that’s a testament to the guys in the clubhouse because we all know how much work it takes to not only stay healthy but to come back from injuries.”
“I know that definitely helped me still being around the guys, seeing them go out and do what they do, and it kind of gives you that much more drive that when you come back, you don’t want to be that weak link or that arm that is just kind of down there and not really fully ready,” Sadler later added. “I think that’s why it took a little bit is one, just letting the body heal, and two, making sure I was ready to go do my job as soon as I stepped on that mound again for those guys.”
Listen to the full interview with Sadler at this link or in the player below.
Futher reading: M’s reliever Paul Sewald goes in-depth on bullpen’s secret