The Dodgers may end up missing Todd Coffey quite a bit this season, but the local reporters may miss him more. His season-ending interview Tuesday –an MRI on Coffey’s right elbow revealed a partial tear, an injury that will require Tommy John surgery –contained unexpected dashes of the wit and wisdom that make the right-handed pitcher unique.
It was a strange injury because Coffey did not feel the tear take place during his last outing Monday against Cincinnati. Asked if he had any idea how he sustained the injury, he deadpanned: “I would say pitching.”
OK, seriously now …
Coffey threw five pitches to the first batter he faced, Jay Bruce. The fifth pitch, an 81-mph slider, hit Bruce in the foot.
A wild pitch sent Bruce to second base and Coffey allowed a triple to the next batter, Todd Frazier. He came back to strike out Chris Heisey and Miguel Cairo on a pair of sliders in the dirt. Devin Mesoraco then ripped a Coffey fastball for an RBI single.
That figures to be the last pitch Coffey throws for at least a year, based on the usual timetable for recovery from Tommy John surgery.
“It’s hard to tell when exactly I did it but it was obviously during that outing,” he said. “The MRI showed that it was fluid and recent. … I never felt it on one pitch.”
At one point Monday, head athletic trainer Sue Falsone came out to check on Coffey. That was at the request of catcher A.J. Ellis. “I think AJ just didn’t like the way it was coming out of my hand,” Coffey said. “Catchers, they know.”
The strange thing is that Coffey didn’t know, despite having had Tommy John surgery before. He missed the entire 2000 season when he was a 19-year-old minor leaguer and property of the Cincinnati Reds, but bounced back without missing a step in his ascent to the big leagues.
“There was no pain, no pinching,” Coffey said. “I had it before, and before it was a ‘bam,’ sharp ‘ouch.’ You know it. It was weird. It was hard to describe exactly what it was.
“I would have to assume it was that one (the slider that hit Bruce) but you know what happens when you assume. I never felt any sharp pain. Never felt nothing through the four warmup pitches after they come out. It is what it is. You can’t lie with an MRI. Even like this morning when I woke up I didn’t feel anything. I’m not swollen. I don’t feel anything different. If I push my thumb on it I feel it. I thought it was a little tendinitis. Him saying that it was partially torn shocked me.”
Coffey signed a 1-year, $1.3 million contract in the off-season that includes a club option for a second year. He turns 32 in September but seems intent on pitching beyond this season.
The burly pitcher dropped a couple more jokes during his postgame media scrum.
“Twelve years is a good run on a Tommy John. If I get another 12 years out of the next one, I’ll take that,” he quipped.
And on whether he’s spoken to Chris Capuano, who’s already come back from two Tommy John surgeries in his career: “I didn’t talk to him today. He was little busy.”
Capuano started against the Reds on Tuesday.
For a pitcher who doesn’t anticipate returning until next August, who had not allowed a run in 10 outings prior to Monday, and who called the situation “very frustrating,” that’s a pretty bright attitude in a dark moment.
“I can’t go back in the past. I can’t change it,” said Coffey (who should know since he’s a big Star Trek fan). “It is what it is. If I spent my energy focused on being bummed out or down then I’m not going to get back. The goal is to get back. The goal is to move forward. How do I move forward? That’s get it fixed and doing what I can.”
On that note, here’s one more bullpen sprint for the road (couldn’t find any of him with the Dodgers, sorry):