10/17/07 12:00 PM ET
Corpas calm as ever in midst of playoffs
With World Series up next, closer's demeanor won't change
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
In Spanish, it means cool, calm, "Take it easy" or relax.
In other words, Rockies closer Manny Corpas is the baseball definition of "tranquilo."
"I am a person who is calm, and I have always been that way," Corpas said. "I don't think I'm ever going to change that part of my personality. It is who I am."
Corpas' demeanor suits him and is a perfect fit at the end of the Rockies bullpen. It helped him to 19 saves in 22 chances during the regular season and kept him cool in his most important appearance to date: the four-out save on Monday against Arizona in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Coors Field that propelled the Rockies to their first World Series appearance in franchise history.
In the eventful Game 4, he struck out Tony Clark to end the eighth with Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton on third base and pitched a scoreless ninth to start the historic celebration.
"I knew it was very important but I didn't think about that," Corpas said. "I was relaxed. I tried to make my pitches."
So far, he has rarely missed with a pitch.
In seven postseason games this season, Corpas is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA and five saves. No other pitcher has had more than four saves in the postseason since fellow Panamanian Mariano Rivera had five saves in eight games in 2003.
Corpas blew a save in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS, but recovered to pitch a scoreless 10th inning in a game the Rockies eventually won, 3-2, in 11 innings to take a 2-0 series lead.
"I think he went through 16 consecutive saves before he missed one," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He ran off another 10 or 11 before he missed a second one. And I think if you look back to both times he wasn't able to close, you look at the next inning he pitched in the same ballgame. [He has a] very slow heartbeat. He got outs. I have every confidence of him of moving forward, business as usual."
Business as usual for Corpas is a save on the field followed by nice dinner with his girlfriend or an evening chatting with his agent. The Panamanian does not say much in any language and said he only speaks English because he knows he has to do so being in the United States. He would much rather let his pitching do the talking for him and drift off into the evening unnoticed.
He is almost the exact opposite of animated Diamondbacks closer Jose Valverde.
"I think at times people mistake his behavior for being lazy or too laid back," said Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies director of South American operations. "People questioned him early, especially in long-season Class A. But as he came up through Double-A and Triple-A, people just realized that's how he is. He's even more relaxed away from the field but, when he pitches, he's aggressive."
At age 16, Corpas was signed by the Rockies by scout Tim Ireland in 1999 after being spotted playing for Panama in an international tournament in Taiwan. Corpas went on to pitch one inning in the Venezuelan Winter League for the Rockies in 2000 and spent summer of 2001 playing for the organization in the Dominican Summer League. He participated in his first Spring Training in 2002 and played for short-season Casper in the Rookie League that year.
The uniforms have changed as he ascended through the Minor Leagues. Corpas hasn't.
"He's the same as he was then, but stronger and his arm-slot is better," Fernandez said. "He would throw side-arm every now and then, but he is more mature now."
"As a scout, it's what you look for and dream of," he continued. "The hard part for us was seeing him at that age and guessing what he was going to be like at 23, 24 years old. It's exciting to see a young kid grow and see him play in this situation."
Signing Corpas was an accomplishment in its own right. Fernandez estimates Major League clubs sign an average of seven players a year out of Panama and rarely does the number reach 10. On Opening Day this season there were seven Panamanians on big league rosters with the most notable being Rivera, Carlos Lee, Bruce Chen and now, Corpas. There were an estimated 80 players from Panama playing in the Minor Leagues in 2007.
"In Panama, they don't play much baseball and [with] every player that signs from there, everybody knows him and has seen him," Fernandez said. "Our scout did a good job getting the kid. Manny's very confident. He thrives on the challenge. [The scout] saw that."
Corpas assumed the closer's role in August when an ailing Brian Fuentes could no longer do the job. Fuentes eventually landed on the disabled list and is now the setup man. Corpas went on to post a club record for relievers with a 2.08 ERA in 78 appearances.
"He's been able to anchor the back end of the bullpen," Hurdle said. "When you try to establish a formidable bullpen, you work your way backwards and forward. We're fortunate we have a number of guys out there that have experience in closing. Manny took the ball and just ran with it from his first opportunity. "
Corpas was credited with the victory in Game 2.
"I am really happy with the season I have had so far and appreciate that the Rockies gave me the opportunity," Corpas said. "The mentality of a closer is a difficult one. You have to have a positive attitude all of the time, confidence in yourself all the time no matter what happens. You have be relaxed out there is my belief."
"Tranquil" is the word in English.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.