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11.06.2006

Back in the Sadler Again 

With all the fuss about the Giants young pitching the past six months -- the emergence of Matt Cain, the promise of Jonathan Sanchez, the unholy buzz over Tim Lincecum -- one player slipped quietly into a September call-up with little fanfare: Billy Sadler.

The prospect hounds are now taking notice as Sadler mows down the competition in the Arizona Fall League. Here's what BP's Kevin Goldstein has to say in this morning's column:

I realize I've been bringing up Sadler quite a bit lately, but what can I say–-I like a bandwagon. Last Friday was just a usual Sadler outing, as he struck out the side. In 10.1 innings over nine appearances so far, the 25-year-old former sixth-round pick has limited opposing batters to a 4-for-35 (.114) mark with three walks and 17 strikeouts. In a league where the composite ERA is 5.25, this is an especially dominating performance. I'm still not convinced that he's a closer, but there is little doubt that he can pitch high-leverage bullpen innings in the big leagues right now.

I love the smell of "especially dominating" in the morning when it modifies the noun "Giant."

If you blinked, you missed Sadler's big-league debut in September. He pitched four innings over five games and generally didn't fare well. I saw a couple outings; what struck me other than the wildness up in the strike zone (a sign of overthrowing and nerves, most likely) was his excruciatingly slow delivery. Major leaguers will run with abandon when he's on the mound, so I'm not sure Goldstein's glowing assessment is true.

However, we certainly have to keep his name at hand when doing our '07 mock roster construction and when discussing winter trades. Don't be surprised if it takes a Sadler, not a Benitez or Brian Anderson, to snag someone like Gary Sheffield or Pat Burrell.

If Sadler is in the '07 bullpen mix, the possibilities look like this so far:

RHP
Benitez
Worrell
Correia
Hennessey
Wilson
Chulk
Sadler
Munter

LHP
Taschner
Misch
Threets

The name on this list that inspires the most confidence is Kevin Correia, which tells you a lot about the state of the Giants relief options right now. They're either old and/or injured and/or attitudinally maladjusted (Benitez, Worrell); young and unpredictable (Chulk, Hennessey), young and prone to getting lit up in the majors (Munter, Taschner, sometimes Hennessey), or more or less untested at the big-league level (Wilson, Sadler, Threets, Misch).

Saying it's a safe bet that Sabean will pay for veteran bullpen help this winter is like saying George Allen is kind of a retard. As I've written before, the eighth-inning Tascher-Helton matchup in a tie game at Coors Field does not make Giant fans stand up and thump their chests together in macho anticipation. So don't get all whiny when Sabean peels off a couple mil for a lovin' spoonful of Jamie Walker, Tom Martin, or Ray King.

As for the closer role, no one has any faith in Mando getting his groove back. And Mr. Plan B of yesteryear, Tim Worrell, is four years and a herniated disc or two past the Robb Nen era. There will be agitation for a youngster to take the closer reins, à la Papelbon or Wainwright, and I don't necessarily disagree. But my sage nod and $7.50 will get you a plastic cup of American-brewed piss-water in the Mays Field center field bleachers.

Keep in mind the Giants once tried the game of Anyone Can Be a Closer, and it was called Tyler Walker. And it was, well, not exactly a total failure, but not exactly the kind of grand happy accident that makes a stubborn old-school GM rethink his hard-wired conventional wisdoms.

Couple that with a new field manager who doesn't have the warm fuzzy security blanket named Trevor Hoffman to nuzzle against, and don't expect the Giants to throw young Sadler (or Lincecum, or Wilson) to the ninth-inning wolves without first trying to pry loose someone more proven.

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