A 22nd round pick in the 2009 draft, Coffey signed for an over-slot bonus of $990,000 and is one of many talented young arms from that class working their way up the system. While Coffey’s yet to make his pro debut, he’s just about back from a shoulder injury and should make his first appearance in the GCL in about 2 weeks.
During the days leading up to his pro debut, Coffey talked to me about his pre-draft history, what went on during the draft process, his current arsenal of pitches, how he plans to stay healthy in the future and his current injury.
JT: Can you talk about what happened with your velocity & injury before you were drafted?
CC: Before I was drafted, I only got to pitch in a few games. I had three pre-season starts and one regular season start. My second regular season start, my velocity was already down in the low 80’s because I had already torn my ligament on the final pitch of the previous game. My velocity was really low and I knew I had a huge elbow problem because it was really swollen and I could barely move it the next game. In my first four games I was sitting anywhere from 88-91, 92, topping out anywhere from 94, 95, which was an increase from my junior year of about 4-5 mph. Post surgery I’ve been up to 90 mph, sitting 86, 87, but after I come back from my shoulder problem I think it will be back around where it was before.
JT: After the injury happened, what did you think of your draft status?
CC: I really had no intention of signing whatsoever. There was really no indication from my agent or any scouts that I was going to get the money that I had hoped for before the injury. I really just gave up on getting drafted and focused on going to school. And then, what do you know, I got drafted in the 22nd round and the Orioles threw some money that I couldn’t turn down. So I decided to sign.
JT: What was your initial reaction when you heard the Orioles call your name in the 22nd round?
CC: When I got drafted, I wasn’t surprised. I knew a team was going to pick me up, just to pick me up, because most teams don’t have 50 players that they really expect to draft & sign. I knew I was going to get picked up by either the Orioles or Angels. I wasn’t expecting it to happen until the 3rd day of the draft, but, it happened on the second day. I was pretty happy about that. I didn’t really have much communication with the Orioles until the middle of August. My agent did most of the communicating; I just kind of sat around and waited for college to start. A few days before the deadline, the Orioles came in with their first offer and I knew, potentially, that money could get somewhere where I’d be comfortable signing.
JT: Where did you go after you signed and how did you continue your rehab?
CC: After I signed, a few days later I came here to Sarasota over to Twin Lakes, where I continued my throwing program. I had been throwing for about a month at that time. The Orioles took a look at where I was in my program and they modified to the way they wanted it to be, because at that point I was following James Andrews’ program. I started following the Orioles program, I came back for instructionals in Spetember, I stayed there for about a month. Then I went home for the off-season.
JT: Can you explain what your throwing program was and what you’re doing to prevent similar injury in the future?
CC: Right now I’m working with Dave Walker, he’s our major league rehab trainer. He really knows what he’s doing. He’s got control of my rehab now, he’s making sure I’m doing everything the right way, doing it his way, and always doing my exercises. He’s helping me out with my mechanics, helping me out with everything I need, my throwing program and my training. I’m pretty confident that having him on my side I won’t have any future problems.
JT: Having already worked on coming back from a major arm injury, what’s your take on keeping your arm healthy and having a durable career?
CC: Well this year was pretty difficult, because right when I was ready to go with my elbow, my shoulder kind of gave out. But from what I’ve heard, this isn’t uncommon. There are a couple guys here on the GCL O’s that had Tommy John and ended up having a shoulder problem soon after, and they haven’t had a problem since. So I’m pretty confident that this shoulder issue is just a minor flair up from inactivity and that next off-season, once I get back to my regular training routine and come back strong during spring training, that I won’t have any problems for a while.
JT: Can you describe your arsenal of pitches? How do you feel about each one?
CC: I’m working mostly with a two-seam-changeup combo, I’ve always had a good changeup, it’s always been my favorite pitch to throw because being a lefty, a changeup is pretty effective. I also mix in a slider that will sit in the mid 70’s, I use it mostly on lefties, not too often on righties. I use my changeup mostly on righties, not too often on lefties. My two-seamer has pretty good action on it, a lot of movement. Before surgery I would throw some four-seamer just to pump it up and blow it by somebody, but right now I’m mostly working with my two-seamer.
JT: So would you consider yourself a power pitcher?
CC: Well, pre-draft, I would definitely say I was more of a power pitcher. I was sitting in the low 90’s, topping out in the mid-90’s, I think by most people’s standards that qualifies me as a power pitcher. Coming down here, it’s a little different because you’re trying to pitch to contact here. In high school with metal bats you don’t really want them to make contacts because they can get cheap hits. Down here you pitch a little differently, you try and make better pitches, pitches that they are going to wing at but won’t be able to get good wood on.
JT: In an interview with Baseball America you said your dad is very “education oriented”, do you feel like your work ethic is something that’s going to help you have a good big league career?
CC: I really think so. In the off-season I feel like my work ethic is just as good or better than anybody else I’ve seen. I train with a pretty well recognized baseball strength and conditioning coach in Houston, along with a lot of other major leaguers. I’m pretty confident. In the off-season I’m doing what I need to do to get where I need to go. In season I’m staying in shape, just doing what I need to do. I feel that work ethic is not going to be the thing that keeps me out of the majors.
JT: What’s it like having a pitcher like Mike Gonzalez down here during rehab? Specifically because both of you have had similar injuries.
CC: When Mike was down here I had a chance to talk to him for a while. He’s a really nice guy, he likes to chat with pretty much anybody, he’s pretty helpful. I wish I would have known I was going to have a shoulder problem when he was down here because he left at around the same time I started to have my shoulder problem. I didn’t really get a chance to talk to him about that. But when a big league pitcher is down here, especially a left-handed pitcher, you really pay attention to their mannerisms and how they go about their business. They’re in the major league and they know what it takes, they’ve got the tools. It’s always good to pick up a thing or two from the major league guys that come down.
JT: Can you talk about your current injury and when you expect to return to game action?
CC: My current injury is a shoulder problem. I had an MRI and it said everything looked really good other than 2 of my 4 cuff muscles that were mildly inflamed. I’m really not too concerned with the injury. I had a cortisone shot, which is not uncommon. I feel it was very effective, almost immediately. I’m building back my arm strength, already pain free, soreness free, throwing at 120 feet. I throw a bullpen next week and hope to be pitching in the GCL in about two weeks. I don’t know what the Orioles plan is after that, I may pitch a full season in the GCL, I may go to Bluefield after a couple starts, but I’m not really not sure, they haven’t’ really communicated with me on anything about that. But I’m not concerned with that, my main concern is getting healthy, getting my velocity back and getting some innings in before the season ends.