Cole Sulser ’12 prepares for third MLB season

by Andrew Doerr | 1/29/21 2:05am

Cole Sulser '12 saved five games as the Baltimore Orioles closer for the first month of the 2020 season.
Source: Richard Lewis/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

After spending seven years working his way up the minor league ranks, Cole Sulser ’12 finally earned a full-season bullpen spot this past year, pitching for the Baltimore Orioles. 

Sulser had a decorated career with the Big Green, winning the second-most games in College history, accumulating 202 strikeouts and garnering selection to three All-Ivy League teams, including First Team All-Ivy honors during his junior year. Along with his individual accolades, Sulser also helped Dartmouth win consecutive Ivy League championships in his freshman and sophomore years.

The 30-year-old Orioles reliever will soon enter his third MLB season after debuting with the Tampa Bay Rays in September 2019 and throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Last season, Sulser secured the closer’s role for the Orioles through August and recorded five saves in eight opportunities. He held a 3.46 ERA through Aug. 22 before a rough final nine innings ballooned his ERA to 5.56. 

It has been a long journey to the MLB for Sulser; the Cleveland Indians picked him in the 25th round, and he has endured two Tommy John surgeries. Navigating the postponement and shortening of the 2020 MLB season during the pandemic has presented a new challenge for Sulser.

“The season got shut down in March, and not knowing when exactly the season was going to start back up was kind of difficult,” Sulser said. “… When we got into season, we're pretty used to baseball being a little bit more of a marathon season with 162 games a year, so to get into a season — and it's only a 60-game season — it was much more of a sprint.”

With a pandemic-shortened season under his belt, Sulser said he is looking forward to competing in spring training and earning a spot on the team for a full 162-game season.

“I'm really not trying to take anything for granted,” Sulser said. “I want to go into spring training and just compete to the best of my ability — try to earn another spot on the team and compete at that level again.”

Sulser displayed a similar work ethic during college, according to Dartmouth baseball coach Bob Whalen, who praised him for his coachability and communication skills.

“[Sulser] always wanted to be great, not just good,” Whalen said, “He understood the level of commitment involved at the Division I level, and he had a good understanding of what it takes to have success at the professional level and also as a student.”

Sulser’s hard work at Dartmouth paid off early when the Big Green won the Ivy League championship for the first time in 22 years his freshman year, which Sulser pointed to as one of his favorite moments with the team. Coach Whalen also recalled the 2009 Ivy championship fondly, citing the success and leadership of talented young players Sulser and Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks ’12.

“When you're involved on an athletic team and you have a very talented person, the other guys are going to have a good measure of respect,” Whalen said. “But it takes it to a whole other level when your teammates respect you because you're a great teammate. And both of them were great teammates.”

The impact that Sulser has had on the Dartmouth baseball team extends beyond his four years of play at the College. His brother, Beau Sulser ’17, joined him on the Big Green pitching staff in 2013 and was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 10th round of the 2017 draft. 

Current Dartmouth pitcher Justin Murray ’22 said the team got to speak with the Sulser brothers over Zoom this fall, and he was impressed by Cole Sulser’s long journey through Dartmouth and the Minor Leagues before reaching the MLB.

“It's definitely cool to see guys from our program make it [to the MLB] because that's where we all want to be at some point,” Murray said. “It's been fun to follow him as he's built his career over the last year and a half or so.”

Murray said that speaking with Sulser and other Dartmouth baseball alumni, including Hendricks, has made him appreciate what he called a “great” Dartmouth baseball culture.

“I think that speaks to the culture and how much people love just being at Dartmouth and love their four years they're playing [here],” Murray said. “It really speaks a lot to guys being willing to come back and talk to us as current players about the journey, whether it's baseball or just school or life in general.”