O'Sullivan saving his strength

Posted: July 18, 2014

ALLENTOWN - Sean O'Sullivan grew up in what he called a baseball-oriented family. His family would schedule vacations throughout the year to visit new ballparks or for O'Sullivan to play in baseball tournaments. In his travels, he has seen almost all of the American League ballparks and most of the National League parks, too. But Philadelphia was one place he had never visited.

He got a chance to experience Philadelphia baseball first-hand on June 28, when he made his first start as a member of the Phillies. He was called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley to take the hill in the second game of a day/night doubleheader against the Braves. He was familiar with the lore of Philadelphia, but he was glad to take it all in with his own eyes.

On the mound, things did not go too well. He gave up a run in the first inning, but then cruised until he got to the sixth, when he was tagged for three runs and pulled from the game, on the way to a 5-1 Phillies loss. Despite the tough outing, his overall experience with the Phillies, while short, was a good one.

"They had nothing but positive things to say to me," O'Sullivan said of manager Ryne Sandberg and the rest of the team. "I knew going into that situation that it would be a one-start thing. I felt like it was an opportunity for me to show those guys that if they need someone later in the season or something happens, I could come up and take care of business. I am not a guy that has never been to the big leagues before and would shy away from the opportunity."

O'Sullivan had been to the big leagues in some form in five of the last six seasons with the Angels, Royals and Padres. His last stint was with San Diego last season, when he served as both a starter and a reliever, depending on what they needed. For a guy who grew up less than 20 miles from San Diego, putting on a Padres uniform was something he always dreamed about.

"It was awesome," O'Sullivan said. "Growing up in San Diego, as a kid, my family was very baseball-oriented. Family nights out were to see the Padres play. A lot of my childhood memories revolve around the Padres. Getting a chance to put on that uniform and pitch for the city that I grew up in was something special."

Now back with Lehigh Valley, O'Sullivan wants the Phillies know he can be an option, if needed. He believes his success comes from not giving up runs in the first inning, which allows him to settle in. Since June 6, he is 2-1, and has only allowed one run in the first inning.

"For any starting pitcher, if you can get out of that first inning without any damage, things are going to sail much smoother," O'Sullivan said. "You are trying to get a feel for the strike zone that day, feeling where the umpire is calling balls and strikes. You are also taking a roll call on what your repertoire looks like that day."

One of O'Sullivan's strengths this season, according to IronPigs manager Dave Brundage, is his stamina. He has the ability to throw 110 or 120 pitches per start, and seems to get stronger the farther he goes.

"He's really a competitor," Brundage said. "I find myself saying the same thing in all my game reports about how strong he gets as the game goes along. With a lot of guys, it doesn't happen. It always seems like he gets himself into the game where that strength and that competitive nature and will to win really starts to show up in the latter innings."

"The farther we get into the game, the more we want to finish it," O'Sullivan said. "We all want to go nine from the start. The closer you get to that, the more pumped you get. You want to finish the game, and that gives you the little extra boost you need to get through."

O'Sullivan is not on the Phillies' 40-man roster, so there would have to be some moves to get him to the big leagues. He is currently 4-6 with a 4.20 ERA at Triple A, but has pitched better of late. He believes he has what it takes to be a steady major leaguer, but is just waiting for the chance.

"The biggest thing I need is an opportunity to prove that I can," O'Sullivan said. "I need to get a run of starts at that level and prove that I can take care of business up there."

Prospect Park

Catching up with five notable Phillies farmhands:

1. Aaron Nola, P, Clearwater: Nola had one start over the last week, in which he went five innings and gave up three runs. He took the loss. 1-2, 3.86 ERA, 13 SO

2. Maikel Franco, 3B, Lehigh Valley: Franco only played in two games for Lehigh before the All-Star break, in which he traveled to Minnesota for the MLB Futures Game. He went 0-for-2 in the Futures game, flying out both times. .230, 6 HR, 42 RBI

3. J.P. Crawford, SS, Clearwater: Crawford also was involved in the MLB Futures Game, the youngest position player picked to play. He went 1-for-2 with a bloop single. .261, 4 HR, 8 RBI

4. Aaron Altherr, OF, Reading: Altherr has been playing well, hitting .311 since June 1. He kept it going last week, going 6-for-20 since July 10. .250, 7 HR, 36 RBI

5. Roman Quinn, SS/OF, Clearwater: Quinn had a tough few games before the All-Star break, going 0-for-19 in his last five games. .234, 2 HR, 11 RBI

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