Rox step up efforts to correct Corpas
Works with pitching coach after another rough outing Friday
DENVER -- In a relatively unusual move at this stage in the season, Rockies reliever Manuel Corpas threw a live batting-practice session early Saturday afternoon, working closely with pitching coach Bob Apodaca beside him to help identify ways to "tighten things up" and turn his slow start around.
Corpas struggled in Friday night's loss to the Dodgers, yielding four runs on three hits in one-third of an inning, elevating his ERA to 8.62. The Rockies went into the inning trailing by a run, but the game quickly got out of reach with Corpas on the hill.
"When you can't get it done any other way, that's the next step we'll take, because we haven't tried that yet," manager Clint Hurdle said of Saturday's live BP session, which Hurdle watched from second base. "It's uncommon, but it's something we've done here before."
With Corpas throwing 23 pitches Friday night and approximately 30 pitches Saturday afternoon, the former closer is unlikely to be available for Saturday's game.
"There's three ways people can get better," Hurdle said. "You either see it, you feel it, or you touch it. We tried touching it with him and seeing it with him, so today we got him out there with the pitching coach behind him, where he could actually make a pitch, have a little communication with somebody -- 'You feel that? You seeing that?' They'll go back and look at it. The seeing it and touching it things haven't gotten us where we need to go, so we tried a little feel it approach out there today."
The challenge is for Corpas to reclaim the rhythm and consistency of his delivery. Corpas pitches best with his arm slot at a three-quarter angle and his hand on top of the ball.
"We see him spinning out of his windup," Hurdle said. "We saw it last year. But he was a little more crossfire, more consistency, a better line to the plate, and more consistency in repeating his delivery. That has been his challenge, not repeating his delivery."
The Rockies hope the immediate feedback, pitch-by-pitch, from Apodaca can help Corpas get back in the groove of recognizing when his mechanics are on or off and, most importantly, quickly making the adjustment on his own, as he did through his stellar 2007 season, when he won the closer job at the All-Star break, only to lose it when he struggled this April.
"His confidence was his strength last season," Hurdle said. "It kind of reinforces how human we are at times. And how much confidence plays into this game, and how it can change dramatically. It's a pendulum that can swing different ways at different times, and the strong reacquire it, the strong reclaim it."
Though the Rockies' 11-18 record is only a half-game behind where they were on this date last season, they have already shown a willingness to act quickly, making seven pairs of roster moves since Opening Day, four of which were prompted by injuries, but others -- such as demoting rookie starting pitcher Franklin Morales to Triple-A to regain the form he showed down the stretch last season -- the result of sub-standard execution.
Hurdle did not appear ready to entertain thoughts of a further demotion for Corpas, after already removing him as closer, but the option clearly is on the radar.
"I think, No. 1, you look at the individual," Hurdle said, comparing Corpas' case to Morales'. "This has been a one-month period for [Corpas]. He had a little bit more length of service coming in. Not a whole lot, but more, in a much higher-profile position that he handled well. There's different circumstances involved. I think at the end of the day, how long it continues, you start looking at other options. You got to look at the personnel you have to replace him also. And you do have to keep in balance what's best for the player."
So far, Corpas has greeted his situation with consistent enthusiasm, eager to continue pitching and taking the ball in whatever situation the games demand. But he has yet to convert that mind-set into results on the mound.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.