Sullivan Working Back Into Top Form

Former first round pick Brad Sullivan has had a rough last two seasons. The ex-Houston Cougars star has struggled with injuries and with his mechanics and, as a result, he has thrown only 70 innings combined in 2005 and 2006. After an off-season of hard work on his throwing motion, Sullivan is healthy and hopeful that better results await him in 2007.

When Brad Sullivan was selected in the first round out of the University of Houston in 2003, he was one of the top collegiate pitchers in the nation. His storied career as a Cougar included being named a first team All-American as a junior. However, Sullivan's workload at Houston was intense, as he threw more than 120 innings in both his sophomore and junior seasons.

Perhaps as a result of that heavy workload, Sullivan has struggled on and off with injuries throughout his professional career. In 2004, the right-hander threw 147 innings for High-A Modesto, but since that time, Sullivan has pitched only 70 innings in total.

Last season, Sullivan struggled with his velocity and with his command, as he tried to incorporate a side-arm throwing motion. He began the season at High-A Stockton, but after some rough outings at the start of the season, he was sent back to the Arizona Rookie League to work on his mechanics. Although he worked hard on the side-arm motion, he never felt comfortable.

"When I went down to Arizona, I was throwing more of a sidea-rm. When I went into the off-season, I was just like ‘that's not me.' Pretty much I had to do a lot of hard work to find myself mechanically," Sullivan said before the start of the Stockton Ports/Sacramento River Cats scrimmage on Tuesday.

"I think I have found the mechanics that are going to work for me."

During the off-season, Sullivan abandoned the side-arm motion and worked on going back to the over-the-top delivery that he used in college.

"I kind of went back to what got me to where I was when I was drafted and kind of combined that with a lot of what the A's were teaching me. We'll just have to see how it all plays out," Sullivan said.

Sullivan indicated that he has already started to see some improvements in his pitches since he went back to throwing over-the-top. He said that his velocity is up to 89 to 91, after having been down in the low-80s last season.

"I feel healthy. Now I'm just repeating my mechanics and that is why the velocity is starting to come back. It's a lot more fluid motion than what I had last year. I was a disaster for awhile mechanically," Sullivan said.

The right-hander will begin his season back at High-A Stockton, where he will be pitching out of the bullpen. In addition to working on his mechanics during the off-season, Sullivan also put a lot of work into his conditioning. He added pilates to his fitness routine and he put a lot of work into strengthening his legs and his core. Sullivan also took some time this off-season to decompress from a sometimes frustrating 2006 campaign.

"My first month of the off-season, I had a ranch with a bunch of other baseball players and we just sort of hung out and I just got away from it and cleared my mind. Then I got to work," Sullivan said.

After a spring that Sullivan called his best ever, the Texas native is optimistic that the 2007 season will be a strong one.

"I'm feeling really good and I'm excited for the season," Sullivan said.

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