Corpas seeks return to 2007 form

Corpas seeks return to 2007 form

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Like many players in Spring Training, Rockies reliever Manuel Corpas said he has about 15 pounds to drop to reach his target weight of 210-212.

But he's also trying to shed a couple of years, which may be tougher. Since becoming a star as the Rockies' closer in 2007, Corpas has packed on a forgettable '08 and a pair of elbow surgeries during an abbreviated '09.

"I have to think about 2007, trying to work hard and do the same thing in 2007 -- try to make the team again," said Corpas, who struck out three in 1 1/3 innings of the Rockies' rain-shortened 4-1 victory over the D-backs at Hi Corbett Field on Sunday.

For Corpas, 27, the last part of what he said is most important.

In 2007, his first big league season, Corpas earned 19 saves, plus two in the postseason as the Rockies made the World Series. The team rewarded him the following spring with a four-year, $8.025 million contract with incentives.

Since then, however, he has gone 4-7 with just five saves and a 4.92 ERA. He lost the closer job to Brian Fuentes early in 2008. Fuentes signed with the Angels after that season, but Huston Street, acquired from the Athletics, beat him out for the job last spring.

In one sense, though, it's 2007 again. Corpas has to prove himself just to make the team. After all, the Rockies returned to the playoffs last year without Corpas' services in the second half of the year. He underwent surgery to remove a bone chip from his throwing elbow and needed a followup surgery to clear up an infection in the injury area.

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"I know I have a contract, but to make the team I have to work hard," Corpas said. "I know I have options [can be sent to the Minors without being exposed to other teams through waivers]. I don't want to go back to Triple-A. Nobody wants to go back to Triple-A."

Manager Jim Tracy said the Rockies have built the depth to cover for Corpas if he doesn't rebound. But Tracy also remembers how good Corpas can be.

"To get a 2007 version of Manny Corpas back, let's face it, only makes us better," Tracy said.

Corpas' spring debut on Thursday did not exactly put him in line for a demotion to the Minors, but it didn't make a solid impression, either. He walked two in one inning against the D-backs but worked Justin Upton into a double play to end the inning.

Tracy complimented Corpas on his composure and the fact he was missing low, rather than high. But Corpas told pitching coach Bob Apodaca he was disappointed and felt he could be better if he controlled his body better.

On Sunday, Corpas struck out Adam LaRoche, Mark Reynolds and Ryan Roberts. His fastball gained velocity -- 87-90 mph in his first inning of work, 90-92 in the following inning before the game was called because of rain.

Corpas' slider was 80-81 mph, slower than he'd like but with enough downward movement to make Reynolds hopelessly try to check his swing on the third strike.

"To see the ball coming out of his hand the way it did today and to see the location, it's really encouraging," Tracy said. "I now it's March 7, but the other day at Tucson Electric Park, the ball didn't come out like that."

Apodaca was happy with how Corpas recognized what was wrong and corrected it.

"All my thought is to get the Manny Corpas that I know is in there," Apodaca said.

Corpas knows his 2007 form is inside, as long as he knocks the last two years out of the way.

"It's a little difficult because those two years were not good," Corpas said. "But I'm a professional player because I'm good. I have to think that. I just have to do my job and think about 2007 again."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.