BOSTON -- Sean O’Sullivan has bounced around between five organizations, up and down between the majors and minors since he broke in with the Angels in 2009.
And the life of the journeyman is far from easy -- especially when you’re used as a spot starter.
But now, O’Sullivan has given himself a chance to hang around after earning another turn through the rotation with his solid performance to start his second stint with Boston on Sunday.
“I saw it as a chance to kind of come up here and prove that I was capable,” O’Sullivan said. “Been working ever since they sent me down -- I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder in my career to try and get back because the two weeks I spent here earlier in the year were so great.”
A big reason O’Sullivan wanted to get back wasn’t just the glory of being in the majors, but the atmosphere around the Red Sox.
“The environment is awesome,” O’Sullivan said. “The clubhouse is awesome. It’s something I really wanted to get back to. Something about these guys and these fans and this city -- I really enjoyed it. I was like ‘Man, I got to get back there.’ ”
Something -- or rather someone -- that’s given the burly (6-1, 245) right-hander hope has been Boston’s All-Star starting pitcher, Steven Wright.
“It’s been so cool to watch Steven do what he’s doing. He’s more than paid his dues,” O’Sullivan said. “He worked so hard at [throwing the knuckleball] and to see it pay off as well as it has is a great for anybody out there. I know it inspired me.
“You’re not out until you’re out. Keep grinding and find a way to get it done. That’s what he’s done and he’s done at the highest level phenomenally all year. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
But the inspiration doesn’t just derive from the fact Wright making hitters look foolish all season after puttering through the minors from 2007 until last season.
It’s also given O’Sullivan an example of someone that he’s known closely -- since he was 12 years old -- who has overcome years of not breaking through the fold to come out in a big way.
And it’s been just as special for Wright to see his old Southern California friend find his way into Boston’s rotation.
“I’ve been following Sean and he’s definitely had his ups and downs more than I have because he’s been in the big leagues up and down for the past six or seven years,” Wright said. “For me, when talking to guys like him and [catcher] Sandy [Leon] -- guys that have been up and down a lot -- I just watch to see what they do and, basically, you just keep working.”
The friendship was forged through a mutual friend who was Wright’s high school catcher and on O’Sullivan’s travel team.
“It’s a small world -- baseball itself is such a small world,” O’Sullivan said.
That was helpful for O’Sullivan in his transition to his newest organization and played a big role in meshing well with the clubhouse.
“It was really cool to have a familiar face, especially in spring training to a new organization where you don’t really know anybody,” O’Sullivan said. “He was really the only face that I knew coming into spring training. So that was nice to have a familiar person around to ask questions about how they run things or ‘Where’s this field,’ or ‘Where’s this cage they’re telling me to go to?’ Just someone to be able to have conversation with right when you get there to help you mingle in and feel comfortable.”
Now, the ball is back in O’Sullivan’s hand for his start tonight in the first game of the final series before the All-Star break against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.
His longtime SoCal friend is confident the two will continue to find success because of their daily approach to their craft.
“A lot of things you can’t control, but the one thing you can control is your work ethic,” the knuckleballer said. “I feel like as long as you keep working hard, you’re going to give yourself and opportunity.”