For the majority of non-roster invites, their time in Spring Training is just a blip on our radars for the season. Once in awhile a NRI garners attention from the organization and wins a spot on the 25-man roster. Mike MacDougal is an example of one of these players, who worked his way into the Dodgers’ dugout through his performance last Spring. Dougie, after having a solid year in the Dodgers’ pen, is now set to pitch in his second season with the team. Cory Sullivan is trying to make a splash this Spring, and earn his way back on a big league team.
Sullivan left baseball last June while playing for the Phillies’ AAA team to spend time with his young daughter. He was in the midst of a divorce, and he felt that he needed to be with 4 1/2 year old Riley Dylan.
“When I made the decision, I didn’t think I’d come back to baseball,” said Sullivan. “My thirst for the game was never gone. When I left, in the back of my mind, I thought I might not get the chance to return. But going home was an easy decision for me. There are things bigger than baseball. We played a lot. I felt like I should be there for her. It was time well spent. She’s doing great.”
The 32-year old was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and has played for the Rockies, Mets, Astros, and for the Phillies organization before being signed to a minor league deal with the Dodgers. Originally drafted by the Rockies in the 2001 Amateur Draft, he debuted with Colorado on April 4, 2005 as their starting center fielder. He had a commendable rookie year, finishing with a good .294 batting average along with 4 homeruns, 30 RBI, and 12 stolen bases in 139 games. For 2006, Sullivan earned the job as the Rockies’ lead-off hitter and center fielder. On April 6, 2006 Cory tripled twice in the same inning, a record only 11 players share.
Sadly, Sullivan never expounded on his rookie season thereafter. In 2006 his average dipped down to .267, and he couldn’t add to his previous season’s numbers as he only had 30 RBI and two homeruns. In the next two years, his playing time decreased. By 2007 he had lost the starting center field position to Willy Taveras and started out the year in AAA. He only played in 72 games with the Rockies in 2007 and a mere 18 games in ’08.
In 2009 Cory signed a one-year deal with the New York Mets. He played in 64 games with NY, and hit .250 with 2 homeruns and 15 RBI.
In 2010 Sullivan signed a minor league contract with the Houston Astros. He played in 57 games with Houston, hitting only .188 with no homeruns and four RBI. When he was DFA’d, he refused a minor league assignment. He then became a free agent. In February of last year he signed a minor league deal with the Phillies, but was released on May 28th. He then signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on December 13, 2011 with an invitation to Spring Training where he is now vying for a spot on the bench as he works his way back in to the game.
Sullivan is getting noticed this Spring. The left-handed hitting outfielder had three hits last Wednesday for the Dodgers. He hit a grand slam in the ninth inning of the night game of a split squad game schedule last Saturday which was the catalyst for the Dodgers’ 10-6 win against the White Sox. What little power he once had was thought to be long gone, but this Spring Cory has 6 hits and 6 RBI in 12 at-bats so far.
“I kind of like him,” said manager Don Mattingly. “He’s got a good idea at the plate. He knows who he is. I don’t know a whole lot about him, but he’s shown he knows how to play. I’ve moved him from left to center to right. When you look at where we’re at [with a full outfield], he doesn’t really fit in that plan. But he knows what he’s doing.”
With the Dodgers’ outfield set, Sullivan most likely will not make the team. Yet his story makes you want to root for the small chance that he could perhaps snag a bench spot. Even if he doesn’t make it back in to the Majors, his daughter Riley should be proud of her Dad. There are not many things that come before a player’s love of baseball, but family should always be one of them.