Dodgers reliever a different cup of Coffey
From mad dashes from bullpen to cold baths, veteran is unique
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It isn't just because of the way his big body rumbles in from the bullpen to the mound or the way he looks over the wrong shoulder when holding a runner on first base or that he'll play long toss after games instead of before games.
It's all those quirks and more that make new Dodger Todd Coffey the contrarian reliever.
"It's just the norm of baseball," explains Coffey. "I don't play by the norm."
Definitely not. Chris Capuano, a teammate of Coffey's in Milwaukee and now again with Los Angeles, describes Coffey this way:
"I think he's a little masochistic. He likes it extra cold in the tub. He sits in it and screams. It's supposed to be a hot tub. He ruins it for everyone else. It's too cold."
"I didn't see the parachute come out and got nervous," Mattingly said.
So, how did Coffey work that stunt into his repertoire?
"It started in '04 in the Minor Leagues," said Coffey. "We were down seven runs and we scored eight runs and took the lead and I was coming in and I was so pumped I just ran out there. And once I got there, my legs felt good. And I liked the way the adrenaline felt, like an adrenaline spike. And as I came down, I felt energized. It's a lot easier coming down than having to get your energy level up. It's just a tool. Oh, and the fans love it. They get into it."
Then there's the peek at a runner on first base. Coffey might be the only pitcher that turns his head toward second to look at the runner on first.
"The way I stand on the mound, if I look over my left shoulder, I can't see the runner," he said. "I see the dugout, I see the first-base coach and the umpire, but I can't see the runner. If I look over my right shoulder and can see the runner, he's got too big a lead and I throw over. Really, it makes complete sense."
So does his postgame long-toss routine, which he said he picked up from teammate Trevor Hoffman in Milwaukee.
"Why use up your throws before they count," he said about pitchers who play long toss before games in which they might pitch.
Coffey said he never has a problem warming up fast.
"Just nine pitches, that's all I need," he said. "I learned a lot since coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2000. I had to watch every game during the rehab and learned different ways to take care of my arm."
Capuano said don't be fooled by the foolery: Coffey is serious about his job.
"He takes care of his arm better than anyone you'll ever see," Capuano said. "He's very diligent about his arm exercises. He'll stay at the park after a game longer than anyone else. He cares about what happens on the field. His philosophy is never to leave the park until he feels good about what happened. He'll watch video endlessly, to where the clubbies get annoyed because he doesn't leave."
He has a few other idiosyncrasies.
"He's had his game glove for like eight years," said reliever Scott Rice. "Somebody touched it in the bullpen the other day and he was not happy."
That's a rare sight, Coffey not happy.
"He's just a funny guy, but his humor is very well managed, a time and a place for everything," said bullpen coach Ken Howell. "He has a fun-filled personality. His timing is real good. He's not a prankster. He's more of a comic -- like when he runs to the mound. We want to time him in each stadium. At Dodger Stadium, instead of a radar gun, they should have a stopwatch timing him every time he comes into the game, just to see if he can keep his speed up.
"One thing he does that's just hilarious: On his final warmup pitch in the bullpen before coming in the game, he does his Latin pitch, where he gives it one of those Jose Valverde full spins after he releases. Most guys, they're thinking about locking in on the final throw. He says it takes all the stress off him. He's funny.
"But he's also a great bullpen leader. One of the skills he brings is the ability to talk to the young players about pitch repertoire, understanding how to challenge the strike zone. He will be real instrumental in game awareness."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.