Coffey a reliever on the fast track
BY JOHN ERARDI | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Reds reliever Todd Coffey says that it is going to happen.
What "it" is that?
That he blows a big lead?
That he gives up a 500-foot home run?
That he walks the bases full and gives up a grand slam?
No, none of those things.
Well, what, then?
"That I fall running in from the bullpen," he says, grinning.
"It'll happen. The guys in the bullpen say that's what they're waiting for."
Rest assured, Coffey won't get booed galloping in from the bullpen at Great American Ball Park late in either today's or Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Cardinals fans booed him two weeks ago in St. Louis when he ran to the mound to pitch.
Coffey got the last laugh, though. He had been summoned into the game in the eighth inning with one out, two on and a 1-0 lead. He struck out Juan Encarnacion, gave up an infield hit to Albert Pujols and struck out Jim Edmonds after falling behind 3-and-1 in the count. The Reds went on to win that game 1-0.
Some Reds fans have taken to calling Coffey "Big Thunder" for his big frame (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and the way he rolls in.
It's meteorologically correct. Usually what follows "Big Thunder" to the mound is Reds closer David "Stormy" Weathers.
The Reds might be onto something if this 17-8 start continues.
As nicknames go, "Big Thunder" is a pretty good one. And, as signatures go, there aren't many better than Coffey's gallop in from the bullpen.
It's who he is. There's nothing contrived about it. He really can't wait to get in the game.
"I've always done it," he says. "I did it in the minor leagues. I do it for a couple of reasons. One is relievers don't get much time to warm up, so the run kind of gets my legs nice and loose. The other thing is, I'm just ready to go. I'm ready to get out there and get after it."
Coffey's baseball hero was, and still is, his grandfather, A.T. Coffey Jr., himself a minor-league pitcher.
"He always told me to go right after it, and that's what I do," Coffey said.
In other words, be yourself. And if that means galloping in from the bullpen, well, that is what you do: you gallop in from the bullpen.
"He also said, 'Respect the game,' and I do that, too," he said.
A.T. follows the grand-kid's career closely; Todd's dad videotapes Todd's appearances off TV and brings them to A.T.
"Some people back home in North Carolina have told me, 'You throw like your grandfather did.' That's a compliment to me," Coffey said. "I like hearing that."
Does the grand-kid really think he'll go down in a heap someday running in from the bullpen?
"Oh, yeah, it's going to happen," Coffey said. "I've tripped up on my own feet a couple of times. Not to where I've fallen down, not yet, anyway - knock on wood - but I'll probably do it (Sunday), now that we're talking about it."
Well, no, he didn't.
Reds starter Elizardo Ramirez went six innings, Matt Belisle the seventh, Rick White the eighth and Coffey the ninth.
He got, in order, two fly outs, then came a single, and another fly out. His velocity was mostly 93 mph. He had done his job, kept it right there, Reds trailing 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth.
The Reds didn't win it, but the bullpen - again - had filled the bill.