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— Three surgeries and 14 innings later, Josh Sullivan finally made his first professional start in Arkansas.

Sullivan, who graduated from Little Rock Central in 2002, made his first start as a professional baseball player in Arkansas on Thursday night for the Tulsa Drillers against the Arkansas Travelers. He pitched 4 2/3 innings before being pulled with two outs in the fifth inning, earning a no-decision as the Drillers beat the Travelers 4-1 to split a doubleheader that lasted five hours and 50 minutes - mostly because the opening game lasted 14 innings.

“Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t go longer in the game,” said Sullivan, who allowed 3 hits, walked 4 and struck out 2 Thursday. “My pitch count got up, especially in that last inning with a few walks. As a starter, your goal is to go a minimum of five innings.

“Overall, the first few innings felt good. I had command of most of my stuff.

I struggled with the breaking ball a little bit.” After Sullivan was replaced by reliever Dustin Molleken, Sullivan’s family and friends, including his parents Jerry and Jill, immediately left their seats behind home plate.

“That’s why when I took him out, 50 people left?” Tulsa Manager Duane Espy joked.

“I took him out of the game and literally, 50 people got out and marched out together. … I think they were happy I took him out so they couldgo home.” Since he was drafted in the fifth round by the Colorado Rockies in the 2005 draft out of Auburn, Sullivan, a right-hander, underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in March 2009. He had shoulder surgery in 2007 and elbow surgery in 2008.

But the wait to pitch in his home state was worth it for Sullivan, he said.

“With the 14-inning game, we were wondering if it was ever going to happen. But

it finally did,” said Sullivan,

who lives in Little Rock in

the offseason with his wife

Lindsay. “It was good to have

everyone that’s seen me grow

up playing in high school.

They’ve been patient. It was

good to finally play in front

of them.” Sullivan (0-2, 5.33 ERA),

who was limited to 75 pitches

in the first month of theseason, is in his first season at the Class AA level. He went 4-5 last season with Class A Tri-City and Modesto in 14 games, including 13 starts.

Sullivan’s main goal after three surgeries in six years is simple: Stay healthy.

“It’s been tough. It’s been more of a mental struggle just as much as it has been physical,” Sullivan said. “The grind of not playing ... for a while, not knowing what the diagnosis was and we couldn’t find out what was wrong.

To sit out every year while everyone was playing, that was tough.

“My goal was to be able to have a chance to pitch healthy, and this is the first year that I’ve really felt like that. Hopefully, the injuries are behind me and I can move on with my career.”At a glance JOSH SULLIVAN AGE 26 POSITION Right-handed pitcher HOMETOWN Little Rock SCHOOLS Little Rock Central/Auburn NOTEWORTHY Fifth-round draft pick by Colorado in 2005 draft. ... Has underwent three surgeries in his six-year career, including elbow ligament replacement surgery in March 2009. ... Played football and baseball at Auburn. Became full-time pitcher in junior season at Auburn in 2005. ... Father Jerry played football at Arkansas.

Sports, Pages 25 on 05/14/2011

Print Headline: THURSDAY’S TEXAS LEAGUE Outing worth wait for LR’s Sullivan

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