As the 26-year-old Giants right-hander prepared to try to extend the 13-inning scoreless streak to start his career, he said he wasn't even sure he'd be here.
"You have doubts every day," he said, "especially when you have overcome a few things."
A few things?
Or being so unappreciated by his professional organization that he was never once invited to big-league camp.
Or missing an entire season recovering from shoulder surgery.
Or, oh yeah, having a couple holes drilled in his skull to drain all that excess blood from his brain. Yeah, can't forget that one.
Sadowski, who takes his 0.00 ERA to the mound against the Marlins on Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park, is every kind of heart-warming, underdog baseball story rolled into one.
"There are 150 guys in the organization, and if you did the top 100 prospects, I probably wouldn't have been in it."
-- Giants pitcher Ryan SadowskiAlthough emergency brain surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma is the eye-opening part of Sadowski's unusual trip to the majors, it is only one chapter of the story.
You won't read about it in the Giants media guide, though. Back on page 450, you'll find Sadowski's career numbers prior to this season, a thoroughly unimpressive 26-24, 4.76. You'll find a bio that reads:
Graduated from Western (Davie, FL) High School... attended University of Florida ... singleWhat that doesn't tell you is that Sadowski was on the baseball team at Florida, but he pitched a grand total of 6 2/3 innings for the Gators. Unable to show his stuff for scouts in games, Sadowski instructed his mother to call scouts for all 30 teams to essentially beg for tryouts.
The few who called back were skeptical.
"I said give me 10 minutes of your time and I'll be there," Sadowski said. "Quite a few of them laughed me off."
Only two teams, the Giants and White Sox, had scouts watch Sadowski's first workout. Sadowski kept trying. He and his roommate, a catcher, "did a driving tour of Florida" to throw for various scouts. He said he did about eight workouts across the state.
"I drove around the state, making 10-minute appearances throwing," Sadowski said.
Eventually, all 30 teams got a look at him. The Giants picked Sadowski in the 12th round in 2003. Shortly after he started to live his dream as a professional baseball player, it became a nightmare.
Sadowski said he'd felt pretty miserable that whole first summer at Salem-Keizer, in the Northwest League.
"In July I started having headaches, blurry vision, an uneasy feeling," he said. "Like when you wake up and don't feel your best. That was every day for 2 1/2 months."
The Giants had him undergo a CT scan, which showed nothing. They believed he had post-concussion syndrome, the result of a fall in the shower. When the season ended in September, Sadowski returned home to Florida and was so weak he couldn't even carry his bags from the airport. His father took him to a doctor, who had him undergo an MRI.
"That night I was having emergency brain surgery," Sadowski said.
Sadowski had a subdural hematoma, which occurs when bleeding in the skull causes blood to pool around the brain. Sadowski said one-sixth of his brain was filled with blood. He had two holes drilled in his skull, and spent the next few days in the intensive care unit. Doctors told him there was no way to know how or why it happened. In any event, he figured his baseball career was over.
"I figured I'd just go on living a 9-to-5 life, funny as it sounds, using my head," Sadowski said.
But January 2004, Sadowski was starting to feel almost back to 100 percent. He returned to spring training and resumed his baseball career. Other than the protective plastic insert inside his cap, there was nothing remarkable about Sadowski when he returned to the minors. His 6.92 ERA at Single-A Hagerstown and his 4.64 ERA at Class-A San Jose in 2005 didn't earn him too much attention in the farm system.
"There are 150 guys in the organization, and if you did the top 100 prospects, I probably wouldn't have been in it," he said.
Sadowski fell even deeper on the organizational depth chart when a shoulder injury cost him the entire 2006 season. It wasn't until he returned from that that he started to pitch well. He had a 3.04 ERA at Double-A in 2007. He started 2008 at Double-A and eventually earned a promotion to Triple-A, where he had a 4.80 ERA.
Despite his unspectacular numbers, the Giants did have an eye on him, according to Bobby Evans, Giants vice president in charge of player personnel.
"There's no way a player gets the ball like he's gotten the ball unless hes gotten attention," Evans said. "We've been taking note of him really going back to '07 and '08. Last year he really stood out. He was a consideration during the offseason for the 40-man roster, but we ultimately went with a smaller big league camp, which hurt guys like him."
Evans said the Giants gave another endorsement to Sadowski in mid-June, when his agent had asked about the pitcher possibly going to Japan. Evans said the Giants told him that he ought to stay put, because he was on a short list if there was a need in the majors. That need arrived a couple weeks ago, when struggling Jonathan Sanchez was demoted to the Giants bullpen.
Sadowski made his major league debut with six scorless innings on June 28 at Milwaukee and he followed that with seven scoreless against the Astros on July 3. He's now pitched more innings in the majors than he did in college and big league spring training ... combined.
Sadowski said the long road he took to the majors has helped him have a simple approach when he arrived. He's trying to simplify the game, and do the same things he was doing at Triple-A.
"It's the same game, just on a bigger stage," he said.
The biggest adjustment he's had to make so far as a major leaguer is to his cell phone plan. He's been getting plenty of congratulatory text messages since arriving in the big leagues, but he didn't have a text plan until a couple days ago.
"That was a big mistake," he said. "I think my phone bill might be as much as my last minor-league paycheck."