County native Todd Coffey discusses his career

Feb. 14, 2013 @ 07:31 AM

Major League pitcher and Rutherford County native, Todd Coffey, has had a busy offseason. The 33-year-old free agent is currently rehabbing from Tommy John’s surgery in hopes of signing with a club and returning to the big leagues by July 1.

“I really won’t be healthy until then,” he said. “I could sign with a team now and go down to spring training to do my rehab there, but it would just be a distraction. I would rather stay here and focus on my rehab and then sign on July 1. That way, if there are several teams  interested in me, I can choose to go to a contender and that’s very important to me at this stage of my career.”

If teams’ interest in February are any indication, Coffey should have no shortage of suitors come July.

“I can’t say who is interested in me, but I can tell you that it is 26 out of 30 teams,” said Coffey. “I’m really excited about that, because if I can prove I can still throw and that I am fully recovered, I can pretty much pick where I want to go.”

For Coffey to sign with a club, they have to meet certain criteria he and his agent have set.

“There are some teams I just will not sign with and there are some teams I would love to play for,” he said. “They just have to be the right fit. For example, I’m looking for a team that’s a contender and one that’s going to use me in the right role. I don’t want to go to a team that’s just going  use me as a mop up guy. I want to be the main setup man that gets the game to the closer.”

With the emergence of the setup role in baseball over the past several years, Coffey’s skill set has become a valuable commodity for most teams.

“Games are lost in the seventh and eighth innings, not the ninth,” Coffey said. “You don’t see starters going past the sixth inning much anymore. It’s the setup man’s job to hold the team together after that. I think it is the most important role on the pitching staff and now that people have started to realize that, my stock has really gone up.”

To that end, Coffey has set up a pitching showcase to show off his arm to Major League teams.

“Basically, all the teams want to see is if I can still throw a baseball 95 miles per hour,” he said “That’s it. Tommy John’s (surgery) really doesn’t take away from other pitches, but it can limit a fastball. So, my showcase could literally be me throwing three or four fastballs and teams making their decisions based on how I do.”

Even with such a small sample size, Coffey claims he doesn’t feel any added pressure over the pending showcase.

“I’m not nervous at all. I’m just focusing  on my rehab right now and if things keep progressing and I keep working hard, there is no doubt in my mind that I can pitch on a major league level again.”

Coffey, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is quick to admit that with spring training getting into full swing this week, staying focused on rehab is difficult.

“It feels really weird not to be going to spring training,” said Coffey. “I actually spoke with a few of the guys on the Dodgers and they were encouraging me and asking how everything was  going and that was helpful. I’m just going to miss the whole atmosphere of spring training, but I felt it was more important to stay here and rehab.”

That rehab process is an arduous one. Coffey spends eight hours a day four days a week throwing and going through other workouts.

“It’s ironic,” said Coffey. “I’m doing more throwing injured than I ever did healthy. I start at 9 a.m. and don’t leave the gym until 4 p.m., so it’s not easy. The biggest thing is to follow the program that the doctors have set up and not rush things. Otherwise, I might tweak something and that would cause a setback.”

Coffey is no stranger to rehabbing from Tommy John’s surgery, as he underwent the same procedure in 1998, shortly after his graduation from Chase.

“Since this is my second Tommy John’s surgery, I knew kind of what to expect and that was a big help, but in a lot of ways it’s different now too,” he said. “It’s like night and day. The only thing that’s the same is where they make the cut on your arm. During my first rehab, my elbow was locked in place for six weeks. I couldn’t move it. This time I started stretching after two days. These new techniques have really helped the recovery rate, which is about 90 percent.”

Even with the high recovery rate, the latest surgery did give Coffey time to ponder life after baseball.

“I have no doubt that I will pitch again in the majors, but I also know that baseball won’t last forever,” he said. “I love baseball and want to stay involved with it. I can’t enjoy games on TV anymore though. I would be a bad analyst. I think I would be a better fit in a front office somewhere.”

No matter which major league mound he takes to this season or which front office he will be a part of in the future, there is no denying that Coffey’s Rutherford County roots run deep.

“It has been a blessing to be able play Major League Baseball, but the bigger blessing is calling Rutherford County home,” he said. “I love coming back home for so many reasons. To begin with, it’s great to see family and friends again, but in addition to that, this county is just so passionate about baseball. You don’t see that everywhere. Kids are so eager to learn and they have some great coaches to learn from. They face great competition day in and day out, and great competition makes great players. That’s why I help with camps and things. I learned so many valuable lessons about baseball and life growing up and competing here. I want to be a small part of it by passing that on to others.”

“I’m so proud to be from Rutherford County,” Coffey continued. “Every time I step on the mound, I know I’m representing the people here. I can’t wait to start playing in July so I can do it again.”