Notes: Coffey learning lessons
Right-hander finding out what it takes to be a closer
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Even in non-save situations, the ninth inning can be a whole different animal for a big-league reliever.
The Reds' newly anointed closer, Todd Coffey, was called from the bullpen to get three outs and preserve a 7-3 lead over the Astros on Saturday. Although he'd been dominant this season as a set-up man, he struggled, hitting the leadoff batter, and then allowing three singles and two runs.
Suddenly, a relatively routine situation became a high-pressure learning experience about the perils of closing games. Had Ryan Freel not made a spectacular wall-crashing, game-saving catch on Mike Lamb's drive to the left-center-field gap, it could have been a very costly lesson for Coffey and the Reds.
"It helped me a lot," said Coffey, who leads the pitching staff with 26 appearances. "I started pitching in one mode, and I can't do that. I have to step back and relax and go back to the same way that's helped me."
Coffey has been Cincinnati's most consistent reliever, and he entered Sunday leading all big-league relievers with a 1.74 ERA. Long expected to be the closer of the near future, his four-out save in a 3-2 win Wednesday at Chicago, prompted manager Jerry Narron to promote the 25-year-old and put David Weathers in the set-up role.
"The ninth inning is different than any other inning," Narron said. "There's nobody behind you. It's one of the toughest things in sports to do."
Looking back, Coffey felt he tried to put too much on his mid-90s mph fastball. It adversely affected his location.
"Adversity makes you better, like in anything," said Coffey, who is 2-0 with two saves this season. "Last night, I learned it's not go harder -- it's go smarter."