Stockton Notebook: Sullivan's Struggles

Oakland A's first round draft choice Brad Sullivan has had a tough time recapturing the magic he had during his college days at the University of Houston since signing his pro contract. Sullivan's fortunes didn't improve on Saturday when he made his season debut for the Stockton Ports. We look at Sullivan's performance and a few other notes for the Ports during this early season inside…

Sullivan Rocked in Season Debut

The game was out of hand by the time Brad Sullivan took the mound on Saturday, but it was still a moment of interest for A's fans. The 2003 draft choice is coming off of an injury-plagued and ineffective season in 2005 and the A's were hoping for better results in 2006.

Sullivan came on in the eighth inning on Saturday with the Ports down 11-1. As soon as he began to warm-up, he looked like a different pitcher from the one who pitched for Stockton and the A's Rookie League squad in 2005. Sporting a side-arm delivery reminiscent of A's closer Huston Street's throwing motion, Sullivan appeared to be having trouble finding a consistent release point. He got a lot of movement on his pitches, but that movement frequently took the ball out of the strikezone on Saturday.

In his first inning of work, Sullivan walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. He recovered to strikeout the next hitter, but then was wild again, hitting Matt Miller on the shoulder to put runners at first and second. Sullivan made a nice pitch to Justin Nelson to induce an inning-ending double-play, but things would spiral out of control in his second inning of work.

In the top of the ninth, Sullivan began the inning by issuing three walks and a wild pitch. At least three of his pitches hit the backstop. Sullivan then allowed a two-run double, followed by a run-scoring wild pitch. He then induced a line-out to short, but walked his final batter before being lifted. His final line was 1.1 innings pitched, one hit, five runs earned, five walks, a hit-batsman and two wild pitches. The game ended with the Ports on the wrong end of a 16-1 drubbing.

"Sullivan is going through some changes [with his motion], that's for sure," Stockon manager Todd Steverson said after the Ports' loss to Modesto on Saturday.

"I thought his first inning was good, but he lost it a little bit there in the second inning. It's a matter of being repetitive [with his throwing motion] to get it going right. That's true with anyone in the minor league system right now. You have a set-back where you take one-step forward and two-steps back, you have to keep pushing forward to try to get better."

Rogers Great To Start, Roughed Up In Fifth

Oakland A's second round pick Michael Rogers also made his season debut on Saturday. The North Carolina State alum was outstanding through four innings, allowing only a solo homerun to Doc Brooks in the fourth and striking out five. However, the wheels came off in the fifth inning, giving Rogers a misleadingly ugly line-score.

Rogers started the fifth by allowing a long solo homer by Modesto's Duke Sardinha. He then allowed a single, double and single to the next three batters before inducing Rick Guarno to ground into a force-out. During the next at-bat, catcher Landon Powell appeared to have his second caught-stealing of the game when he launched a low and accurate throw to second ahead of runner Corey Wimberly. However, shortstop Cliff Pennington was late in getting to the bag and the throw skipped into centerfield. Instead of having two-outs and nobody on, Rogers now had a runner on third and one-out. Rogers allowed a run-scoring single and then Doc Brooks knicked Rogers for his second homer in as many innings and Rogers' night was done.

Rogers had a good curveball working early in the game and appeared to be locating his fastball well until that fifth inning. Despite it being early in the season, Steverson didn't attribute Rogers' fifth inning struggles to fatigue.

"It was more location than anything. His velocity was still the same [in the fifth]. He located well in the first four innings, but he lost his location in the fifth inning with the ball running over the plate more and he got hit," Steverson said.

Slow Start Not A Concern

The Ports have started the season with two losses sandwiched around a rain-out, but Steverson isn't concerned about the team long-term.

"It's the California League, things like that [losing 16-1] are going to happen. The kids are going to be fine. They know how to play. With the rain, they haven't gotten a consistent routine down yet, but once they have a consistent routine they'll be alright," Steverson said.

He has a number of players returning to the club that he worked with for much of last season, including outfielders Matt Allegra, Luis Perez and Richie Robnett, infielders Kory Wayment and Luke Appert, and pitchers Scot Drucker, Marcus McBeth, Jeff Muessig, Trent Peterson and Brad Sullivan.

"We are just trying to improve on the things they did last season. We'll be working on more fundamental things like mechanics and understanding the game," Steverson said.

Pennington Ready For First Full Pro Season

The Ports have six former first round picks on their squad this season, and Cliff Pennington is one of them, as the A's number one pick in 2005. Pennington was sent straight to Kane County after signing his pro contract last year and he was the Cougars' lead-off hitter and starting shortstop for the remainder of the season.

"It was a lot about learning the game. It's a little bit different game [in the pros] with adjusting to the wooden bats, but it was a good learning experience. Hopefully it will be even better this year," Pennington said.

Pennington will be working with Gregorio Petit as a double-play partner for the second-straight season. The tandem is among the most talented defensively in the California League. It can sometimes take a double-play combination time to get used to each other, but Pennington says that he and Petit were on the same page quickly last season.

Pennington said he sees a lot of talent around him with the Ports this year and likes Stockton's prospects to make it back to the playoffs again this season.

"We are excited about the year. I think we have a really good team and a chance to win a lot of games," Pennington said.

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