Corpas confident he can be relied upon
Rockies reliever ready if faced with high-leverage situations
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Rockies reliever Manuel Corpas' final answer of his brief pregame chat with reporters Friday was most important, and he understood that.
He loosened the drawstring of the hooded sweatshirt that protected him from a biting wind. He removed his sunglasses.
"My confidence, it's good," Corpas said.
That doesn't answer all questions facing Corpas, who closed for the team in 2007 but has struggled with consistency and injury since. But three days before the start of the regular season, his feelings about his confidence will have to suffice.
Corpas completed an up-and-down Cactus League stint with three positive outings -- three innings, one hit, two strikeouts, one walk -- to lower his ERA to 5.23. Most of his pitches have been low in the zone with downward movement. It's the type of stuff that could make him a viable candidate at the tail end of games.
But there also has been the odd belt-to-thigh-high pitch that leads to trouble. Such issues have led to a 4-7 record, a 4.92 ERA and five saves the past two seasons after he earned 19 saves in winning the closer's job in 2007, his first full year in the Major Leagues.
Corpas missed the second half of last season because of a bone chip in his throwing elbow that led to two surgeries -- one to remove the chip, the other to clear an infection after the first surgery. That's why his confidence isn't the only question.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy sees Corpas as more of a mid-game option, but the skipper hopes Corpas can regain his end-of-the-game stuff.
"Has the consistency of all of it been better?" Tracy said. "Yes, it has been. But when you get to the back end of that game, and there's really not a whole lot of room for error from the standpoint of bases on balls or misfired pitches with runners in scoring position, that's a horse of a different color."
Tracy said even if Corpas never regains the mid-to-upper 90s velocity that made him special in 2007, he can be as effective.
"I don't think he has to reinvent anything," Tracy said. "The location of it can definitely be that. Can it be 97 [mph] again? I won't go that far. I saw that number go up more than once when I was managing another team. He had that 95, 96 capability. I don't know if he can do that again.
"I do know this: When you throw pitches down, in a real good spot, they normally don't get hit real well."
With closer Huston Street out with right shoulder tightness and headed to the disabled list to start the season, Tracy has a contingency plan for the ninth inning. He'll use lefty Franklin Moales but can go with a right-hander if matchups dictate it. He gave Corpas a chance to earn that role, but Matt Belisle and Matt Daley have been more consistent than Corpas.
Corpas, 27, said his past three outings have boosted his confidence.
"I've been keeping the ball down and getting a lot of ground balls," he said. "I don't try to strike out a lot of people.
"I'm not trying to be the same guys as 2007. That's difficult. Everybody has their lucky years. Now I'm trying to do my job, trying to make a team, trying to do my best. The ninth inning is not my decision, that's the manager, but I want to pitch well enough to do that."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.