Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Sullivan is last reliever standing

Workhorse knows he too could be moved in a trade

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Recently, Scott Sullivan, 32, was standing with his fellow relievers in the Reds' bullpen for the national anthem, when he looked around and realized he was the club's graybeard.

"I had 10 or 11 years on some of these guys," he said, smiling. "When 'Merck' (Kent Mercker, 35) was traded, that left me as the oldest guy."

What's Sullivan supposed to do now - discuss Eminem's world view with 21-year-old Ryan Wagner?

Sullivan and his sidearm delivery have been a fixture in Cincinnati since 1997, when he pitched a whopping 97 1/3 innings in 59 appearances. He also pitched 27 2/3 innings in 19 appearances in Triple-A that year, giving him an amazing 124 innings in 78 appearances.

All he did in each of the next four years was lead the major leagues in innings for a reliever: 1998 - 102 innings in 67 appearances. 1999 - 113 2/3 (79); 2000 - 106 1/3 (79) and 2001 - 103 1/3 (79).

And last year wasn't exactly a day in Cancun: 78 2/3 innings in 71 appearances.

Sullivan might be just 32, but his arm just turned 90.

It has out-lived all his friends.

In the space of three days in late July, Sullivan saw his longtime buddies Scott Williamson and Gabe White traded into pennant races with Boston and the New York Yankees, respectively.

Then, 12 days later, he watched Mercker pack a bag for the fall classic with Atlanta.

The bullpen, perhaps the only part of this team that was worthy of being measured for ring sizes, never got a chance to show what it could do in a pennant race. There was no lighter, livelier niche in the Reds' clubhouse than in front of former closer Danny Graves' locker when Mercker and White were around.

But these days, a 32-year-old reliever with a great track record and an extra zero on his paycheck might not want to lug any heavy, new gear into the Reds' clubhouse. Living light, the way Jose Guillen did - he had all of his shoes packed even before he was traded - is the suggested lifestyle in Cincinnati.

As it has on Reds fans, this season has been disappointing to Sullivan.

"As a player, that's what you want - a chance to play in the post-season," Sullivan said. "When I look back on my career, I'd like to be able to look back on having pitched in the playoffs and World Series."

Not that Sullivan is lobbying to be traded.

He's back to being himself, as last Saturday's outing showed. He pitched two no-hit innings and struck out three. He's made five appearances since coming off the 15-day disabled list Aug. 6 and has allowed only one earned run in 5 1/3 innings.

With his $2.8 million salary, does Sullivan think he's headed somewhere else? "I don't know, but I should know something soon," he said, grinning.

He didn't say what that meant, but he didn't need to. Aug. 31 is the deadline to be on a team's roster to be eligible to play in the postseason.

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