Corey hoping persistence pays off
Reliever practices patience in long road to Major Leagues
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Bryan Corey is very patient yet quietly persistent.
That explains both his determination to win one of the final roster spots in the Red Sox's bullpen to begin the season and his ability to put his recent run of hard luck in the past.
With a four-seam changeup, Corey has shown the ability to get left-handed batters out, a factor that might work in his favor as roster decisions are made.
But numbers hardly tell the whole story for the 34-year-old right-hander, who was struggling to impress officials in the Tigers organization as an infielder selected in the 12th round of the 1993 First-Year Player Draft. He batted just .128 in his first two pro seasons and was wondering about his future in baseball.
But a fateful decision by Detroit prior to the 1995 season to take advantage of his live arm re-energized his career. He led the New York-Penn League with 13.18 strikeouts per nine innings at Class A Jamestown in his first season as a hurler.
He was selected by Arizona in the 1997 Expansion Draft and made his big league debut in 1998. He would sign with the Tigers, Athletics, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs (twice) and Marlins before another fateful encounter, this time with the Rangers in 2006.
Up until 2006, Corey had appeared in exactly four Major League games, not exactly a wealth of experience to draw upon.
"You sort of get caught up in a lot things in this game, get frustrated with this and that, and it takes you away from having fun," Corey said. "If you're going to be here and go through all this, and you're going to work as hard as you do in the offseason, you might as well have fun doing it."
It was in Texas where he learned to become more of a pitcher than a thrower, with the help of a changeup.
"It's very big for me against lefties, and even righties," Corey said. "A few years back, I was around Scott Servais, a former catcher and now the farm director for the Texas Rangers, and he started talking to me about throwing my changeup to right-handers as well and throwing it in to right-handers. It's just been huge for me."
The Red Sox acquired Corey on July 30, 2006, for right-hander Luis Mendoza.
"I came up with it in 1995, when I just got converted, a few weeks before Spring Training," he recalled. "I was out trying to learn any kind of changeup. I was learning the four-seam fastball, so I thought, 'I might as well learn the four-seam changeup.' It's like a four-seam fastball without my index finger on the ball. I turn it over a little bit."
Corey has built up quite the reservoir of goodwill with the Red Sox, nearly earning a spot on last year's playoff roster after appearing in nine games during the regular season, going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA, allowing six hits and two runs over 9 1/3 innings.
In six Grapefruit League outings this spring, Corey has posted a 1.17 ERA.
"There are times I haven't used it and got away from it, and it's like anything else, if you don't use it, you lose it," Corey said. "So I forced myself to use it so I would get a feel for it off my fingertips. It's huge for me. If I don't have it, I'm probably not here."
Nearly making the playoff roster was the second disappointment he suffered through in 2007. In last year's Grapefruit League campaign, Corey was 0-1, but with a very impressive 1.50 ERA in 10 games, striking out seven and walking none in 12 innings, but did not make the club out of Spring Training.
"Keep pitching like he's pitching," pitching coach John Farrell said of Corey's chances to earn a spot in the Boston 'pen this season. "He had an outstanding spring last year. Things didn't work in his favor because of the roster situation and spots on our pitching staff, but even when he came up late in the year, he pitched like he did last spring and he continues to do that, by the first look, this spring."
Corey said the support of Farrell and manager Terry Francona has given him hope to think he might be on the roster when the team heads to Japan to open the season.
"It's means lot, and I get that a lot from Tito, actually," Corey said. "I think for me, and everything I've gone through in my career, and the struggles I've had to get back to the big leagues, and being in the right place at the right time and have that opportunity to finally just go out and pitch like I'm capable of pitching, I will be rewarded. I think that time is here."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.