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40 in 40: Casey Sadler

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

***If you only want to read about Casey Sadler’s baseball work, please skip down to the starred portion below.

In 1938, Dorothy Hansine Andersen, a pediatrician and pathologist at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, published a paper titled “Cystic Fibrosis of the Pancreas and Its Relation to Celiac Disease: A Clinical and Pathological Study” in the American Journal of Diseases of Children. It marked the first time the disease had been named, and its characteristics - cysts, scars and tissue damage surrounding the pancreas and lungs - identified.

Four years later, Dr. Andersen co-developed the first diagnostic test for cystic fibrosis, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers identified the gene mutations that produce a faulty protein, creating a buildup of mucus that clogs the lungs and makes it near-impossible to breathe. As of today, there’s still no cure, but that’s something many are seeking to change, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Founded by a group of parents in 1955, the group has been dedicated to funding the development of treatments and, ultimately, a cure for CF for more than half a century. One of the Foundation’s stories centers around Mary Weiss and her three sons, all of whom had been diagnosed with CF. As a volunteer for the Foundation, Mary had spent the afternoon calling local organizations to fundraise to support CF research. Her middle son, four-year-old Richard, came into the room later that day and declared, “I know what you’re working for.”

“What am I working for?” She asked him.

“You’re working for 65 Roses,” he answered.

A complex name for a complex disease, Cystic Fibrosis has since then been referred to as “65 Roses” by many within the CF community.

65 Roses. #65. See what I’m getting to here?

Last week (yes, somehow just last week), it was announced that newly-returned pitcher James Paxton would not be wearing his traditional #65 and would instead don #44 in deference to a 30-year-old journeyman reliever who’d been picked up off waivers back in September.

Sadler was given the number 65 unceremoniously back in 2014 when he made his major league debut with the Pirates, who had drafted him in the 25th round of the 2010 draft. Sometime thereafter, a family friend with cystic fibrosis informed him of the significance of that number to the CF community, and Sadler has made sure to request it at every subsequent stop on his baseball journey. In addition to using his uniform number to raise awareness, he’s also been involved in fundraising efforts to support the fight against CF.

***START HERE IF YOU WANT THE BASEBALL STUFF

This season Casey Sadler will have spent over a decade in professional baseball, but not in the glamorous way of some of the game’s older stars. It’s been 10 years of zigzagging across the country, crawling up through the minors only to be shunted down due to injuries, pitching struggles, or simply bad timing. He’s never pitched more than 50 innings in a single season, but has still managed to appear for five different major league teams in the last six years.

So he’s clearly got the stuff to pique the interest of MLB execs. He just hasn’t...stuck anywhere, and remains a bit of an unknown despite being up and down in the majors since 2014.

Most distinctive in Sadler’s repertoire is a devastating, high-spin curveball, which the Mariners encouraged him to throw more last season and which we can see Wil Myers utterly baffled by below:

He rarely throws four-seamers, but his two-seam fastball has an elite spin rate that compensates for a pretty average velo:

His sinker, when he throws it, has an unexpectedly high spin-rate, too, as does his cutter - though that pitch is hit pretty well. Sensing a theme here? If you’re wondering what the Mariners see in him, I’d say those spin-rates are the major factor.

Unfortunately for both Sadler and the M’s, the right-hander is out of options this year, making it much more difficult to snag a spot in the bullpen since it’s 40-man or bust. Personally, if they can spare the slot - particularly early on in the season - I’d like to see what he can do with regular appearances in relief.

Some final Casey Sadler facts, in no particular order:

  • His picture is the first image to pop up when you search “baseball player”
  • He, his former collegiate barrel racer wife and their truly adorable daughter were actually Seattle suburb residents months before Sadler was acquired by the Mariners
  • The two teams he played for in 2019 both made it to the World Series the following year #SadlerSerendipity
  • He’s a rather active - and entertaining! - Twitter presence, sharing good-natured tidbits about his underdog baseball journey