Former St. Albert Cardinals pitcher aims for Major League


Left-hander Sabrowski has split the 2024 season between the Cleveland Guardians AAA and AA farm teams

Former St. Albert Cardinal Erik Sabrowski is steadily working his way up the ranks in Major League Baseball's massive farm system and now wears the cap of the Cleveland Guardians' AAA affiliate team, the Columbus Clippers.

Sabrowski, 26, is a left-handed pitcher who spent his final four minor baseball seasons with the St. Albert Cardinals before being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 2018 MLB Draft following a standout 2017-18 season with the Cloud County Community College Thunderbirds in Concordia, Kansas.

The Clippers, who acquired Sabrowski from the AA Akron RubberDucks on May 24, are the highest-ranked member of the Guardians' system, meaning that if Sabrowski strings together some impressive performances on the mound, he could soon be under the bright lights of MLB stadiums, competing against the best players in the game.

However, Sabrowski is not hasty, as he gazette Speaking by phone from a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, he wants to use this promotion as an opportunity to show the organization that he can be a reliable pitcher in the bullpen and also stay healthy throughout the season – something that unfortunately hasn't happened since his college days.

Turbulent journey

Shortly after being drafted by the Padres in 2018, Sabrowski underwent ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery, commonly known in the baseball world as Tommy John surgery. The goal of the procedure is to repair a partial or complete tear of the UCL, a ligament on the inside of the elbow that connects the humerus in the upper arm to the ulna, a bone in the forearm, and keeps the elbow stable. UCL tears are usually the result of overuse, reports the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, which is why it's a common injury among baseball pitchers.

Due to the long rehabilitation period required after Tommy John surgery, Sabrowski missed the entire 2019 baseball season. Sabrowski, along with almost all other professional baseball players, was also absent from the field in 2020 due to COVID-19 season cancellations.

Sabrowski got his first taste of professional play in 2021 with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Padres' High-A affiliate team. He pitched nearly 30 innings in eight games with the TinCaps and had more than respectable statistics, as he had a 1.86 earned run average (ERA); 1.03 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP); and recorded 41 strikeouts compared to just 12 walks.

However, the Fort Saskatchewan-based player's 2021 season ended abruptly in August of that year when he had to undergo a second Tommy John surgery due to another elbow injury.

Despite the setback, Sabrowski was selected by the Cleveland Guardians in the Minor League Baseball portion of the 2021 Rule 5 draft, which allows teams to select minor league players from other organizations who are missing from a list of 38 protected players.

Sabrowski missed the entire 2022 season and part of the 2023 season due to his second UCL surgery and made his first appearance with a Guardians affiliate team, the AA Akron RubberDucks, on June 2, 2023.

The former Cardinal showed minimal signs of rust and finished the 2023 season with a respectable 2.49 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 28 strikeouts in 21.2 innings.

Although it's not reflected in his stats, Sabrowski said he had a really hard time staying motivated while recovering from surgery.

“It's a really long process,” he said. “It definitely sucks for a while, but throughout it all, it's really helped me remember my 'why.'”

“I'm reminding myself why I'm going to the complex for rehab for the 200th day in a row and just making sure that at the end of the day, I'm going to be healthy again and have opportunities like I have now.”

Here and now

This year, the left-hander was able to start the season completely healthy for the first time since 2021.

“It was great to have spring training for once,” he said. “Just the normal preparation [which includes] some live at-bats where it's just the batter and the pitcher, and you do some simulated games and play some spring training games against other teams; and I got to play a couple of spring training games in the major leagues this year.”

“It was a good start to the season for me.”

Sabrowski, who works as an offseason trainer for Absolute Human Performance in St. Albert, was scheduled to begin the 2024 season with the AAA Clippers, but some early-season difficulties resulted in him being sent to the AA RubberDucks after just three relief pitcher appearances and three innings pitched.

After returning to the RubberDucks, Sabrowski found his form again and became one of the team's best relief pitchers. Between mid-April and May 23, he allowed just one earned run in 11.2 innings. During that time, Sabrowski struck out 26 batters and allowed just two walks. The 26 strikeouts in just 11.2 innings mean that he single-handedly recorded 26 of the 35 possible outs.

When he was called up to the Clippers on May 24, Sabrowski said, he got up at 4 a.m. near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the RubberDucks were in the middle of a four-game series against the Harrisburg Senators. Then he took two flights to get to the Clippers in Omaha in time for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Storm Chasers, where he was scheduled to pitch the eighth inning.

Sabrowski's first AAA appearance after a month-long stint with Akron started strong when he got the first batter he faced to pop out, striking out outfielder Drew Waters, who spent most of the 2023 season with the Kansas City Royals. Sabrowski then ran into trouble when he walked two batters in a row, the first of which scored on a Devin Mann base hit before one of the baserunners was thrown out en route to third base.

Mann's winning single ended up being the deciding point, and Sabrowski had to accept defeat.

As of May 27, Sabrowski had not been called back out of the bullpen, but the Clippers began a four-game series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on May 28.

“I think AA is really good baseball, and there are a lot of guys that could make the jump from AA to the big leagues and have success, but I think in AAA, the guys are a couple years older on average, so they've had a couple hundred or a thousand more at-bats, so they've seen a lot more pitching,” Sabrowski said of what he's noticed about the skill differences between the two leagues. “I think the biggest difference, though, is they're just smarter hitters.”

If Sabrowski makes a splash at the AAA level in the coming weeks and months and earns the call of the Major League Club, he would be only the second St. Albert-affiliated ballplayer to play in the MLB, gazette could find.

In 1985, relief pitcher Dave Shipanoff of St. Albert pitched 36.1 innings in 26 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, although the 1985 season was Shipanoff's first and only in the MLB.