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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Why Todd Coffey sprints

By Adam Kilgore
Morning brushback

I am back from my respite back in Washington, having filed a mighty expense report and not quite shaken the urge to go to sleep at 9 p.m. every night. The break was nice, and it was a joy reading Sheinin's coverage, but it's also good to be back. Since I haven't been around the past few days, I'll start the morning off with my favorite item that's been stuck in my notebook for a while.

Quietly, reliever Todd Coffey has put together one of the more impressive starts to spring of any Nationals player. He's pitched three times, one inning per appearance, and yielded no runs, one hit and no walks while striking out three.

In the spring, in can be easy not to notice any reliever, since they enter the game well after the opposing starters have left. It is especially easy not to notice Coffey this time of year. In most parks, they built the bullpens down the foul lines, which isn't much room to get a running start.

The thing that Coffey is best known for, even more than his nasty slider, is his entrance into the game. During his two-plus seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Coffey's full-speed dashes from the outfield bullpen to the mound became a wildly popular sideshow. For Coffey, though, they carry a purpose.

Coffey began sprinting to the mound in 2004, when he pitched for Class AA Chattanooga in the Cincinnati Reds organization. He was closing for Chattanooga when, one night, his team scored six runs to take the lead. He had gone from watching a loss to pitching in a potential victory. And, well, we'll let him take it from here.

"I was pumped up," Coffey said. "I ran out there. I liked the way my legs felt. So now, it has kind of a dual purpose. One, I run to get my legs loose. Two, I get my adrenaline spiked, so I can come down from it. How many times have you seen a reliever come in, he's got his adrenaline going, and the first pitch he throws is up? Whack, game's over. We don't have that luxury of giving up a hit every once in a while. You may have to get out three guys in a row. So, it allows me to get my adrenaline spiked, and then come down."

The song came later. When Coffey enters the game, the stadium blares the theme song once used by the Ultimate Warrior, the WWF wrestler. One of the Warrior's gimmicks, you may fondly recall, was sprinting into the ring. The Brewers' media relations director happened to be a wrestling fan, and suggested the sprinting synergy may make for a good fit. Coffey listened to the song and, as he said, "it was perfect."

FROM THE POST

The Nationals' retooled defense is not off to a great start, but it's early, Dave Sheinin writes.

By Adam Kilgore  | March 9, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brushback  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Nyjer Morgan's adventures on the basepaths
Next: Ryan Zimmerman's oblique issue a 'non-factor'

Comments

So, Adam. Why are you back in DC? Is this a Post decision? Money? Or is it something else?

Also, how come you never do any chats, are you going to do some this season?

Posted by: comish4lif | March 9, 2011 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Adding to the aforementioned questions:
Having taken a step back, did your impressions of the club change at all over the past week?

Posted by: joemktg1 | March 9, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Sprinting from the bullpen is fine - just don't pull a hammy doing it. I'm just glad those ridiculous golf carts seem to be a thing of the past.

Posted by: KenNat | March 9, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

comish: There's really nothing behind my time back in D.C. It's standard for the beat to take a blow for a few days in the middle of spring. That's all. And I will actually be joining Tracee Hamilton's chat tomorrow, around 11:30 or noon, I believe.

joe: My impression really didn't change a whole lot. It seemed like they played much worse defense when I was away, but I don't know if those errors swayed my overall impression of the team.

Posted by: Adam Kilgore | March 9, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Adam-

Really surprised you did not link to Tom Verducci's story on Strasburg. Are you planning a big feature as a follow up?

It's a thought provoking story - and not just because Verducci gets unnamed team sources and medical officials to say "I told you so" about Strasburg's injury. But because Rizzo and Rigglemen are portrayed as behind the curve on the availability of pitching mechanics analysis tools. Did they actively seek out contrary positions to their belief that Strasburg's mechanics were solid?

Much has been made of Ross Detwiller's new mechanics & improved performance this spring. Isn't it worth the $5k to have his new delivery analyzed by a top-flight medical staff? (something like this http://www.asmi.org/asmiweb/evaluation%20options.htm).

Great medical information is a new competitive advantage in baseball - just like OBP ten years ago, or defense a few seasons ago, or a big draft budget is now. It's a critical key to drafting & acquiring pitching. Let's hope Rizzo can bring the right folks into the Front Office and make this a strength for the Nats.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/tom_verducci/03/08/stephen.strasburg.mechanics/index.html

Posted by: tderrick17 | March 9, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Defense helped create a "new competitive edge...a few seasons ago"?How do you think the Dodgers won in the 60s?There is nothing new about making routine plays and not giving away extra outs.

Posted by: seanmg | March 9, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Totally agree with you seanmg. The key is how teams much teams view defense, relative to other skills (like hitting home runs).

Focus on defense ebbs and flows; in the 90's and start of the 2000's, the focus was on power hitters and big offense. Defense was always important, but at times players have been valued more for offense than defense (relative to other era's). In the last few years the relative importance of defense has increased... hence Adam LaRoche & Jason Werth over Adam Dunn and Willingham.

Teams started moving this way in the last few seasons, right when steroid testing came into the league.

How much teams focus on keeping their players healthy varies across organizations; wherever there's variation among teams, there's an advantage to be found. Just sounds like the Nats are behind the curve on 21st century medical evaluations and care for their multi-million dollar players.

Posted by: tderrick17 | March 9, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey Nats Fans!

Looks like Coffey Struck out the side in his inning of work! As Miley Cyrus would say, "That's Pretty Cool!"

Go Nats!

Posted by: patsgrill4U | March 9, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

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