The Dodgers bullpen seemed fairly well set in January, which made the February 6 signing of Todd Coffey a bit of a surprise. But what we didn't know then was that Blake Hawksworth required a second surgery to treat an infection stemming from his January arthroscopic elbow surgery. While Hawksworth begins the season on the disabled list, Coffey gives the Dodgers a third veteran in the otherwise youthful pen.
Coffey is perhaps most well known for his mad dash from the bullpen to the mound, sprinting Craig Lefferts style each time he is called into a game. Coffey started that tradition while a closer with the Double A Chattanooga in the Cincinnati Reds system in 2004, and in a weird twist Coffey said the run actually helps him calm down.
"That's how it started, and once I got to the big leagues the next year, I really liked the way my legs felt, and really liked the way the fans got around it," Coffey said. "The other purpose was to get that adrenaline spike all of a sudden, and then before I throw that first pitch I get to calm down from it and really focus on that first pitch."
Listed at 6'4" and 280 pounds, Coffey is the biggest man in the Dodgers clubhouse, and manager Don Mattingly knows to get out of the way for his own safety when Coffey is barreling his way.
"I didn't see the parachute come out and I was a little nervous," Mattingly joked last week after a Coffey relief appearance.
Despite his girth, Coffey has been durable on the mound over the last few years. He has pitched at least 69 games in each of the past three seasons, and has pitched in the fifth-most games in MLB during that span. If Coffey had his way, he would be ready to start the season by now.
"For me, I need two weeks to be ready. See a couple of live hitters, and that's it," Coffey said. "I don't need to recharge. I can throw one inning every day."
Coffey has been relatively consistent the last few years as well, with a walk rate near three per nine innings, and a strikeout rate of somewhere around seven per nine. He spent time on the disabled list last April with a left calf strain and missed a month in 2010 with a right thumb contusion, but has not suffered any major arm injuries for the better part of a decade.
The right thumb injury came while batting in 2010, which became a noteworthy item in camp last week.
Coffey last swung a bat in May 2010 while with the Milwaukee Brewers and broke a small bone in his thumb after getting jammed on a pitch. Coffey next picked up a bat on March 15 in spring training against the Kansas City Royals, after not having any batting practice all spring, or last year.
Coffey, who has two hits as a professional, the last coming in 2007, hit a ground ball through the right side for a base hit, the first hit by a Dodgers pitcher this spring. It earned Coffey bragging rights in the clubhouse, but more importantly he didn't hurt himself in the process.
"There are very slim chances that we get at-bats, we may get one or two per year, but I was determined I wasn't going to break something if I had another at-bat," he said.
Coffey has allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings this spring, with one walk and three strikeouts.
Coffey has induced 683 ground balls since 2005, the fifth most in baseball during that span. Matt Guerrier is third with 732 grounders allowed, and Jamey Wright is fifth with 654.
In his second professional season in 1999, while in the Gulf Coast League, Coffey had Tommy John Surgery, that caused him to miss nearly two years, including all of 2000.
Coffey is on Twitter at @ToddCoffey60.
Coffey signed a one-year deal plus a club option for 2013 that essentially makes it look like a one-year deal with a deferred payment in the form of an option buyout. Coffey is guaranteed $1.3 million, with a $1 million salary in 2012 and a $2.5 million option in 2013 or a $300,000 buyout.
|2012 Projections - Age 31 Season|
I think Coffey pitches in 64 games and puts up a 3.76 ERA and 51 strikeouts.
What is your prediction? Be sure to guess Coffey's ERA, number of innings pitched, plus anything else you would like to predict.