MadFriars' Interview: Jerry Sullivan

EL PASO - Donavan Tate, James Needy, Jason Hagerty and Jerry Sullivan are the last men standing from Grady Fuson’s final draft in 2009 and right now, Sullivan may have the best chance to be the first in the class to reach the major leagues.

The New Jersey native, a third round pick out of Oral Roberts University, was converted to the bullpen in 2012 before suffering a shoulder injury which cost him 2013.

Since coming back Sullivan, 25, has put together the type of peripheral statistics - strikeouts-to-base-on-balls and hits-to-innings pitched - which should have earned him a shot last year with the big club.

With El Paso this year he has a 6-2 record with one save and 41 strikeouts in 41 innings against only 11 walks and 39 hits. His first half numbers, a 2.42 ERA have been better than what he has posted in the second, 7.23; but most of those came on the road in some of the more notorious funhouses of the PCL (Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Colorado Springs).

Sullivan will be eligible for free agency at the end of the year if San Diego does not place him on the forty-man roster and with his talent he should find a spot somewhere in a major league bullpen for 2016.

You have some good numbers in a league that is not known to be friendly to pitchers. What has been your secret?

Jerry Sullivan: I had a little bit of an injury early in the season, so I was out for a month and half which was tough. When I came back I really focused on getting strikes early with my fastball so I could use my secondary stuff.

Getting strike one on the first pitch is huge.

We have talked about this before, when you nibble and miss, the comments are, “he has to get ahead and be aggressive” and when you get hit it’s, “he can’t just throw the ball down the middle, he has to pitch.”

How do you balance that?

Jerry Sullivan: There is always a double-standard in baseball based on the result. You just have to accept that.

So when you talk about getting ahead is it your velocity is better or is it your command?

Jerry Sullivan: Really it is just about getting strike one on the first pitch, however I can do it. My velocity has been better some years than others, but I also have a few things in my favor.

I have some natural sink and run to my fastball and my delivery is a bit funky, so guys kind of hold back a little on the first few pitches. So I try to not apply to much pressure on myself, and just try to work to a certain side of the plate around the knee.

I don’t try to make the perfect pitch, I want strike one. Once I am ahead, I have options. When you have options, you have the advantage.

That makes sense because most of these guys haven’t seen you that much, as compared to when you were starting.

Are you still throwing the same type of pitches when you were a starter; four and two-seam fastballs?

Jerry Sullivan: For fastballs I throw all two-seamers. I also throw a slider, change and splitter.

Most relievers just have two. So you still throw all the pitches that you did as a starter? Jerry Sullivan: I do and it really does help me. I also throw a two-seam circle change-up which looks like the fastball based on the rotation.

I want the hitter thinking up there. Having four pitches is tough for anyone to account for.

So many hitters see a relief pitcher and they just sit on the fastball, so this has to be a big advantage for you.

Jerry Sullivan: Especially if it is in a tight situation and you have a lefty up there that really wants the fastball. So if he is aggressive first pitch I might throw the two-seam circle change-up get him ahead and then I can throw him a two-seamer which will come in a little harder and disrupt his timing.

There are multiple aspects of the game that benefit me for having more than two pitches.

You are also comfortable throwing multiple innings as opposed to just one.

Jerry Sullivan: Last year I was pretty much just a one inning guy but that is one of the newer philosophies now because when you get called up you aren’t going to close; they will need you in middle relief. They already have the close and the eighth inning guy.

They have been exposing more guys to longer innings for that purpose.

I have always thought middle relief is a better path to the big leagues because as you said that is what is needed up there.

Jerry Sullivan: It really plays both ways. When you come in to close the games sometimes you have to get the four-out save, which is more high leverage. So you get a different kind of adrenaline flowing.

In middle relief you have to come in for a tough situation. That is again where multiple pitches help because batters always associate a guy with one pitch.

I’ve done both, and each has their own challenges.

How do you control the pressure?

Jerry Sullivan: I don’t know if it is a gift from God but I can’t hear anything. It’s always been that way. I’ve always been lucky that I’ve been able to focus on just throwing the pitch to the catcher. I’ve even had my friends get on me because I couldn’t hear them when I was on the mound.

It doesn’t matter if the stadium is full or empty, it’s just something I’ve been blessed with. There is no difference, a fastball down and away is still a fastball down and away.

You are having a good year as we said earlier. You are having a good year in Triple-A, how do you keep from not getting consumed about getting called-up?

Jerry Sullivan: Early on in my career I was more worried about who I had to impress and other things. Everyone is going to think about it a little bit to some extent.

I’m always reminded and humbled by the fact that if I pitch today I have to do my best regardless of what may happen. If I keep being who I am, it will be good enough.

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