Drayer: Mariners relievers Sadler and Muñoz with big days in different ways
It was a good day on Field 2. Field 2 is where the live batting practices take place, usually the final item on the daily work chart before the Mariners break for lunch and then game.
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On Friday, three pitchers were scheduled to throw to hitters, all of interest with Casey Sadler throwing a “live” for the first time since shoulder surgery, Andrés Muñoz, who is coming off an offseason ankle surgery, and Bryan Woo, whose name was mentioned along with Bryce Miller and Taylor Dollard in almost every interview this winter with Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto or general manager Justin Hollander.
We will get into who exactly Woo is and how he could figure into the mix this year next week, and focus on Sadler and Muñoz right now.
Did I mention it was a good day?
Muñoz and Sadler are in very different places with Muñoz likely within a week from entering Cactus League games and Sadler still with a good ways to go before he is pitching in a big league game again. He was not by design throwing at 100 percent and hitters were told to just track and not swing. Strict rules for a unique opportunity to take a step forward in his bid to return.
“I was talking with (Mariners pitching strategist Trent Blank) about what can we do to kind of break up the monotony of just throwing bullpens? And how do we transition from that to a controlled environment,” Sadler explained after the throwing session. “But in that setting, I think we accomplished that today. I felt really good. I felt like I had definitely have more in the tank. But just for right now keeping it slow.”
Sadler is not looking to make the team out of spring training. With a Tommy John surgery also behind him, he has learned the importance of letting his body tell him when it is ready. Hitters were told not to swing as the swings could amp up his competitiveness. Friday afternoon was not about that. Sadler does not need to be reminded not to push his return.
“There definitely is an itch to go, and I think that’s good. I mean, your competitive juices are flowing, you feel like you are ready,” he admitted. “But the long game keeps you grounded. Knowing that I need to maximize my time left in the game, if I rush something, or if I push myself to a point where it’s like you’re having to take a step backwards, then that’s worse than taking a couple of days on the front end of something just to make sure you’re good. I’d like to play this game for quite a bit longer, and not just one more year. So I think keeping that in mind, the long game, the end goal of pitching in October or pitching in playoff baseball, pitching several years from now really helps with that.”
After traveling with the team for the postseason, October baseball is on his mind. When the time is right, Sadler, who was on a club record streak of 29 consecutive appearances without allowing a run before the shoulder took him from the field, could once again be a strong addition to the Mariners bullpen. On a minor league contract, options are not a concern. He can start the season in the minors and get whatever he needs against hitters to feel ready for a full go at the big league level. Friday was a significant step in that direction.
“However it comes out, it comes out and then move on to the next one,” he said as he prepared to get post throw care. “Good day.”
Good day also for Muñoz, who tentatively is scheduled to throw one more live batting practice before entering a Cactus League game.
“Everything was good,” he said. “I’m starting to feel good again after the thing with the ankle. I wasn’t very comfortable the first time I threw but right now I feel really good. I can put all the weight on the leg and it feels good.”
Muñoz underwent surgery shortly after the season ended to remedy an old triple jump – seriously, he competed as a junior for Mexico – injury. The fracture was not discovered until he had an MRI with the Padres in 2020. At the time there was irritation with the bone that required a cleanup. This winter, more surgery was required.
“With time, I got used to throwing with that pain,” he said. “The only thing I did was get work on it, go into the game and forget about it. Now, nothing.”
Muñoz is now pitching pain-free and like most in camp, he’s added another pitch to his arsenal. He couldn’t hold back a smile when talking about what he saw from his stuff Friday.
“With my fastball, I feel all the confidence again. With my slider, the command that I have is really good,” he said. “With the new pitch, I have some work to do, but I will get there. It’s moving in the right direction.”
“Moving” would be the key word for the 2-seam fastball Munoz is now throwing. He threw two of note to Dylan Moore in the live BP. One for a swing and miss, the other, broke his bat. According to Muñoz, he started working on the pitch last year but did not take it into a game.
Notice anything new? https://t.co/Er3MrSZfG8
— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 10, 2023
“I never threw it before, but it’s like a fastball,” he said. “It felt natural. I just let the grip do the job.”
Muñoz stressed that there is purpose behind its addition.
“I feel like they already see my fastball, they see my slider too much,” he said. “It’s not a pitch I will use for no reason. We have a reason for why we do that and I feel like it will be good.”
There is still work to be done with the pitch, which has similar velocity to his 4-seamer.
“The important thing for me right now is to control it,” Muñoz said. “That thing has got a lot of movement. Right now I just try to throw it in the middle and it doesn’t get the swings I want to get but as soon as I can control the first pitch strike with it, it will be good.”
Good for Muñoz , that is. The hitters? This should be fun.
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