|David Ortiz launched his first home run of the spring in the Sox' 11-10 victory over the Phillies. (/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Corey has world of experience
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hideki Okajima is not the only former reliever for the Yomiuri Giants trying to win a spot in the Red Sox bullpen, although as COD (Countryman of Daisuke), he has a considerably better chance of making the club than does Bryan Corey, whose experience (18 teams in 12 years) has taught him always to keep a bag packed.
Corey pitched for Yomiuri in 2004, but if he had a conversation with Okajima, it was a short one. "He said very little," Corey said.
Corey's time in Japan was a mixed bag. He loved the cultural experience -- and the money -- but the baseball did not go the way he'd hoped. He was signed late -- Yomiuri was in the market for a reliever after Julio Santana washed out, and signed Corey after he was released by the Cubs in early May. It took 2 1/2 weeks for the paperwork to be done for him to go to Japan, Corey said, and when he got there he was scrambling to grasp the Japanese way of doing things.
One thing he discovered, he said, was that his arm was ill-suited for all the throwing Japanese pitchers do. "We threw bullpens every day nonstop," he said. "That's how you show your fighting spirit for the team."
Corey said he went in for an MRI, the first of his career. "My arm was killing me," he said. He shut things down for about 10 days, then was sent to the minors on what he believed was the equivalent of a rehab stint. "But they didn't call me back up," he said, "and wouldn't let me go home."
Finally, he said, he was given permission to leave. But it took a winter in Mexico and a season in the minors with the Dodgers to regain a feel for his sinker. That pitch, along with his curveball, is what is earning him a look here.
In four appearances this spring, Corey has pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. Manager Terry Francona was impressed with his first appearance, when he came out throwing breaking pitches as if he was in midseason form.
Corey, 33, had pitched only five big league innings in his first 11 seasons in pro ball -- he was drafted as an infielder by the Tigers. But he got the attention of the Sox when he whiffed all four Boston batters he faced for Texas in his first big league win, last June 10 in Texas. They picked him up for minor leaguer Luis Mendoza just before the trading deadline, but designated him for assignment six days later, even before Corey had a chance to have his car shipped to Boston.
But after he cleared waivers, the Sox signed him to a minor league deal, then summoned him back to the big leagues, where he showed enough (1-0, 4.57 ERA in 16 appearances) to gain another look in camp as a nonroster invitee. The odds are formidable, of course, but with Mike Timlin's status for the start of the season uncertain because of his strained side muscle, Corey may not have to be grabbing for his suitcase yet.
Both his mother and father, he said, were first-generation Greeks who met in Toronto. He learned to speak Greek before he learned English, he said, having spent much of his time in his grandmother's home while his parents worked. When he calls home, he said, he usually speaks Greek.
His language skills came in handy when he was selected to play for the Greek Olympic team in 2004 in Athens, a team comprised primarily of other North Americans of Greek heritage. That wasn't his first visit to the homeland; his grandmother maintained a home in Sparta, and split her time between Greece and Ontario.
Kottaras last August was acquired from the Padres for lefthander David Wells. The plan is for him to play this season in Triple A Pawtucket, as the Sox intend to give him a chance to demonstrate he has the skills to succeed Jason Varitek. His lefthanded bat (.276 average and .394 OBP in Double A Mobile last summer) is considered ahead of his defense, but he came here early to work with new bullpen coach Gary Tuck, and plans to soak up as much as he can from Varitek and Doug Mirabelli.
"Each person has his own style," Kottaras said. "I'll try to take bits and pieces for my own style."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.