The Texas Rangers will use Connor Sadzeck as an opener for Yohander Mendez on Friday at San Diego against the Padres, the team announced today. As an “opener,” Sadzeck will pitch to the first few batters of the game before giving way to Mendez, who will handle something like a starting pitcher’s workload.
This is an interesting pairing and circumstance to me, for a couple of reasons. Part of the appeal of the opener is to give the opposing team a couple of different looks early, and with Connor Sadzeck, a hard-throwing righthanded, being followed by Yohander Mendez, a lefty whose changeup is his best pitch, it does offer a significant contrast in styles. In addition, the Rangers, as the visiting club at a National League park, will have the pitcher batting ninth. If things go well for the offense, Sadzeck can pitch the first inning, then be lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the second.
Given that the Rangers have only one legitimate major league starting pitcher, Mike Minor, expected to be under team control in 2019, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Texas devote a rotation spot or two to a combination of an opener and a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time starter. For a team that appears to have an interesting core of young position players, a number of relievers who can go more than an inning, and a dearth of starting pitching, using an opener might be the 2019 Rangers best way to try to maximize their win total.
Sadzeck and Mendez are both out of options next year, as well, and thus have a better than normal shot of sticking with the major league club. It isn’t out of the question that we see this pairing a few times next year.