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Reds' sidearm duo delivers

By Jeff Horrigan, Post staff reporter

PLANT CITY, Fla. - Scott Sullivan hopes that the uniqueness of his drop-down, sidearm pitching delivery doesn't prompt the Reds to drop him back down to the minor leagues.

Sullivan, 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in nine relief appearances this spring, knows that available bullpen spots are scarce as the Reds attempt to pare down their roster during the final week of spring training.

With three of the six positions locked up by closer Jeff Brantley and set-up men Jeff Shaw and Hector Carrasco, Sullivan, 26, a right-hander, finds himself in competition for one of the remaining three.

If healthy, veteran sidearm pitcher Stan Belinda, who has been limited to three appearances because of right shoulder tendinitis, is likely get one of the spots. Sullivan wonders if there is room for a second reliever with the distinctive style.

''I've got one thing working against me - Mr. Option - and I hope he doesn't hold me back,'' Sullivan said. ''I hope they can see through that and take the best 25 out of camp. If I'm not one of the best 25 and I get beat by someone, I'll shake his hand and say congratulations.''

Only Brantley (0.90 ERA, 4 saves) has been consistently more effective out of the bullpen than Sullivan, who is the sole reliever left with a minor-league option remaining. Belinda hasn't allowed a run in either of his three outings (2 2/3 innings), but he wasn't able to appear in a game until last Sunday.

''Sully seems more relaxed this year,'' pitching coach Don Gullett said. ''He's got a lot more movement on the ball and he's looked very impressive''

Sullivan credits the presence of Belinda for some of the improvement. Belinda, 32-20 with 74 saves and a 3.89 ERA in 376 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox, has helped Sullivan with the grip on his slider/curve (the pitch falls somewhere in between the two) and has been a constant sounding board.

''Stan has helped me a lot,'' said Sullivan, who has appeared in 10 games with the Reds (0-0, 3.09 ERA) over the past two seasons. ''. . . Stan is the first fellow sidearmer I've been around and he's been through all of the same things and can relate to me.''

While Belinda, 31, and Sullivan can relate to each other, they both insist they are from different families of sidearm throwers, which is part of the reason they believe they can co-exist in the same bullpen.

''He's kind of a slinger, while I dip and muscle it up there,'' Sullivan said.

Belinda's delivery is unique. Unlike Sullivan and other sidearmers, who drop their shoulder and come within degrees of throwing submarine style, Belinda typically keeps his shoulders level and throws with his right arm totally extended.

''I have yet to see anyone who throws exactly like I do,'' Belinda said. ''I'm more wide-out than everyone else and I don't dip my shoulder. Scotty and I also have different repertoires. He's a true sinkerballer while I like to ride the ball up with my four-seam fastball.''

The two developed their styles for different reasons.

''I couldn't get anyone out throwing over the top,'' Sullivan said. ''My coach at Auburn (University), Hal Baird, said, "This guy is 6-3 and 210 (pounds) and he only throws 78 mph? There's got to be something wrong with him.' He experimented by moving my arm down. My ball started moving and my career took off.''

Said Belinda: ''I had three older brothers . . . We'd play ball all the time and they threw the ball much harder than me, so I had to find a way to get them out,'' Belinda said. ''I also used to skip a lot of rocks and play a lot of Wiffleball. I found I could get the (Wiffle)ball to move more by throwing like that, so I tried to apply the same grip (to a baseball) that I used with a Wiffleball.''

Publication date: 03-22-97

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