By all accounts, including his own, Connor Sadzeck's Opening Day start was a disaster. The Frisco right-hander didn't retire a batter, walking four and allowing one hit, before being lifted after 30 pitches. He was charged with four earned runs, thus starting the season with the dreaded unlimited ERA.
On Tuesday he went back to his bread and butter: throwing hard. Zeros followed.
Video: Sadzeck fans ninth batter
The Rangers' No. 11 prospect struck out nine and allowed only one hit without walking a batter over five scoreless innings in the RoughRiders' 4-1 loss to visiting Tulsa.
"Those first few days after that first start were tough, especially when it comes on Opening Day, because that's when you want to set the tone for the season," Sadzeck said. "But then you only get a couple more days before you have to get back into it. I was happy to get through five, and my mind-set was different this time. I was focusing on throwing strikes maybe a little too much, and my velocity wasn't there. Today was all about driving through the catcher again."
It didn't take long for the 25-year-old to see results. He struck out the first batter he faced and retired nine straight to begin the matinee. Flashes of his Opening Day control issues returned in the fourth, however, when Sadzeck plunked Tim Locastro and Jose Miguel Fernandez -- both on first pitches -- to begin the frame. The situation worsened when a fielding error by center fielder Jose Cardona allowed Locastro to score and put two runners in scoring position, still with no outs.
Instead of reverting to the form of his previous start, Sadzeck settled down and struck out Edwin Rios and Johan Mieses -- both swinging -- before getting Paul Hoenecke to ground out to second to end the threat.
"I've been in situations like that before, unfortunately," he said. "It's either going to get out of hand quick or you can handle it. There are guys at second and third, and I want to keep them there, so I have to drive the ball through the zone. [Catcher Jose Trevino] is really good at being a leader there and helping me stay in the moment."
Tulsa's only hit off Sadzeck came in the fifth on a single up the middle by Matt Beaty. He exited after throwing 85 pitches, 59 of which were strikes. His nine K's marked the fourth time in 34 career Double-A appearances he had punched out at least that many batters.
Sadzeck is in his third season in the Texas League and is coming off a 2016 campaign in which he posted a 4.16 ERA with 133 strikeouts and 52 walks over 140 2/3 innings. Though those numbers were solid, the 6-foot-7 hurler wasn't sent to Round Rock for his Triple-A debut.
"It was tough at first because I thought maybe Triple-A would happen," he said. "But this is still a really good level to develop and a good league. Plus, the proximity is huge, being this close to Arlington. It's not hard to show them what you have, and there's no reason why they can't bring you straight from here to there."
If that's going to happen, Sadzeck will need to show that last Thursday's control woes were a temporary blip and to build on Tuesday's dominance. He's already got a game plan.
"I pitch best when I reach back and fire," he said. "It's obviously a fine line there because you could be spinning off and overthrowing. But being a power pitcher, it's easier to build off throwing hard. At the same time, I can't sit here and think, 'Oh, I'm good now.' I need to keep working. I know there are some pitch counts, but I'd like to get six or seven innings in my next outing. If it takes getting fewer strikeouts to get deeper, I'm OK with that."