Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Colorado Rockies Need A Healthy Manny Corpas

Manny Corpas is a polarizing figure amongst Rockies fans.

The right handed reliever has felt just about every emotion a Major League relief pitcher can feel. In his first full season in the big leagues, Corpas took over as the closer for the Rockies after Brian Fuentes stumbled. Corpas did nothing less than notch 19 saves in 20 opportunities, sporting wicked movement on every single pitch that came out of his hand.

Without Corpas, the '07 Rockies never sniff the playoffs, let alone the World Series.

That offseason, the Rockies rewarded Corpas with a contract worth four years, $8.025 million with two club options. Rockies fans could not have been happier. They had their lights out closer signed for years to come.

The only problem was, in 2008 he was anything but light's out.

Before April was over, Corpas had blown four saves and Fuentes was switched back into his familiar role.

The Panamanian right hander finished a horrific '08 campaign with a 4.52 ERA, more than double his 2.08 the previous season.

It was clear that Corpas' confidence was shaken, but it was also clear that Corpas was quite a bit heavier than the previous season. Several reports suggested that the Rockies front office was very disappointed in the right hander for showing up to spring training in poor shape.

From all indications, Corpas learned his lesson after the '08 season. He stayed in Denver for the offseason and was in the weight room at Coors Field more than anyone else on the club. He was noticeably skinnier and told reporters that becoming a father in the offseason had shifted his outlook on life and baseball, convincing him to work harder.

Throughout the spring, Corpas was in a heated battle with newly acquired Huston Street for the closer role. After a great March, most fans were surprised, and even slightly upset to find out that manager Clint Hurdle had given the job to Street.

Regardless of Corpas not being the closer, fans were excited about the return of the '07 Corpas.

That Manny Corpas must have missed the plane to Denver.

After running his ERA up to 5.88, Corpas was shut down because of elbow pain. An MRI revealed bone spurs in his elbow. After surgery Corpas developed a staph infection in that elbow and ended up never throwing another pitch in the '09 season.

Most fans are ready to write Corpas off. They think that his contract caused him to become lazy and that he was a flash in the pan. They think that his contract demotivated him and that he will never be the same pitcher. They also believe that the Rockies bullpen is deep enough to move forward without Corpas.

Not so fast.

The Rockies bullpen is indeed deep. They have Street set in the ninth inning, and Rafael Betancourt as the eighth inning guy. In June the Rockies should get Taylor Buchholz back and Matt Daley and Matt Belisle for the earlier innings. Fans against Corpas think that he should be the odd man out.

If everyone in the 'pen pitches as well as they did in '09, that would be fine. If Street only blows two saves and Betancourt is nearly flawless in the eighth inning, then it makes sense that the Rockies would not need Corpas. The only problem with that line of thinking is that the idea that the Rockies bullpen is going to be just as good in 2010 as it was in 2009. The odds of the back end of the bullpen performing similarly to '09 is slim to none.

Betancourt is a year older and the National League has now had a half season to see his pitches. Street will also no longer be a newcomer to the N.L.

If one of them fails, there is no one in the Rockies organization that has as much big inning Major League experience as Corpas does.

The fact is, the Rockies need Corpas to return to his '07 form. He needs to prove that last season was a struggle because of injury and '08 was because of lack of preparation.

Already early in Spring Training both Street and Betancourt have had to take a few days off. Betancourt battled the flu, which caused him to lose 15 lbs, and Street is already experiencing arm issues that are going to keep him off of the mound through the weekend.

If Corpas is healthy and in shape, which all reports suggest that he is both, he will be a valuable commodity in the Rockies bullpen in 2010. Fans should not be so quick to think that the Rockies do not need him.

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