Corpas Might Need A Minor Tuneup
For three months in the second half of the 2007 season, while the Rockies were battling to earn the first World Series appearance in franchise history, was among the game’s late-inning elite pitchers.
Fame, however, has been fleeting.
A month into the 2008 season, Corpas had kicked the ninth-inning duties away, and given a chance to reaffirm his role as the closer in the early days of this season, Corpas has been unable to shut the door on the doubters.
Instead, he has created even more doubts about his status when the game is on the line, creating the thought that he could even wind up back in the minor leagues, trying to reaffirm his big-league future.
He is guaranteed $7.5 million over the next three seasons, but nothing else.
He does have options, which means the Rockies wouldn’t risk losing Corpas if they decided a refresher course is necessary at Triple-A Colorado Springs – a step he skipped on his way to the big leagues initially.
He has to regain the confidence of his teammates, coaches and manager that he can be trusted with the game on the line. So far, it hasn’t happened. Corpas has been given the chances but he hasn’t been able to reward manager Clint Hurdle and Co., for the confidence.
Corpas does not deserve the full blame for the struggles that have engulfed the Rockies, but he has been a critical part of the failures, including coughing up the game-losing run in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.
On a night on which the Rockies stranded runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the second, third, fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth innings, and had the game-tying run on second with two out in the ninth but couldn’t get it home. Corpas was the poster boy for the futility.
Yes, Garrett Atkins grounded into the inning-ending double play with runners on first and third in the seventh, and the game-ending fielder’s choice in the ninth, and , after singling to ignite a game-tying two-run rally in the seventh, grounded into a bases-loaded double play to end the eighth.
But it was Corpas on the mound in the top of the ninth that keeps echoing off the memory. It was Corpas who was the victim of the first career triple for .237-hitting Nick Hundley to open the inning, and then, with one out, served up the game-deciding single to pinch-hitter Luis Rodriguez, a career .188 hitter with runners in scoring position.
Afterward, it is what Hurdle didn’t say that said so much.
Asked about Corpas’ situation, Hurdle said in light of the fact the right-hander had thrown 70 pitches to get just nine outs in the last three games, would get the call in the ninth. And Hurdle wouldn’t make any commitments beyond that.
“It is (unsettling),’’ Hurdle said of the bullpen situation. “We have to find some answers out there late. But we know they are better than this. We have to keep battling.’’
The Rockies thought they had bullpen depth.
Now they aren’t convinced they have a ninth-inning option.
Street has given them glimpses of hopes, but not the consistency. He was given the closer job to open the season because of the efficient of his late spring – never more than 12 pitches in any of his last eight appearances. Ten days into the season, however, and Corpas was given the late-inning responsibility.
Now it’s Street, at least for a day, who is on call if the Rockies have a lead in the ninth, and Corpas who has become the bigger puzzle, a pitcher who has excelled for two brief periods in the closer role.
Both times, however, the opportunity has been a surprise. At Double-A Tulsa in 2006, he wound up with 19 saves, earning a big-league promotion, being thrown into the closer role when injuries left the job opened. And it was a one-week meltdown by Rockies all-time save leader Brian Fuentes during the final week of June in 2007 that allowed Corpas to step into that role at the big-league level.
For those final three months of 2007, Corpas was as good as the Rockies could ever hope for. He converted 19 of 20 saves.
But it was less than a month into 2008 before he had coughed the job back up, and given the chance to reclaim it in the early days of 2009, he has been unable to get the job done.
After three scoreless appearances to open the season, he has an 0-2 record and has converted one of two save situations while allowing seven runs in eight innings over eight appearances.
He gave up a game-tying home run to Chase Utley of Philadelphia in the eighth inning at Coors Field on April 12. He coughed up the game-deciding ninth-inning single to Brad Ausmus of the Dodgers on Friday. And he served up the hit to Rodriguez in the ninth on Tuesday.
He has needed 22 or more pitches to merely get three outs in four of his last six appearances.
He has failed to provide closure that the Rockies so desperately need.