It happens every spring. A young pitcher comes to camp with a stamp of approval all over his arm. He can’t miss.
A couple of years ago it was a then-21-year-old Dominican named Dan Corcino, a kid so good that legendary Reds pitcher Mario Soto said, “Watch this kid. He is really going to be something.”
This was right after Corcino was 11-7 with a 3.42 ERA in 26 starts for the low-Class A Dayton Dragons. But he was 8-8 the next year with Class AA Pensacola and last year he nearly disappeared from the baseball earth. He was 7-14 at Class AAA Louisville with a 5.86 ERA.
“It was a step back for him last year,” said manager Bryan Price. “He was never right. His arm slot was low, his stuff was flat, his velocity on both his fastball and slider dropped down, his command fell by the wayside.”
Other than that, he was great. After last season, the Reds told Corcino he was going to be a relief pitcher so he spent all winter working with former Redss closer Francisco Cordero.
Price sees the old Corcino this spring: “He is one of our many bright spots and if he throws like he has this spring he’d be our comeback player of the year. He’ll have a dynamite year and will put himself on the top of the list for guys who can help us this year. The command is back, the breaking ball is back, the confidence is back.”
Lutz mashing: Donald Lutz has spent this week losing baseballs over the back-field fences during batting practice. Is he back? Has he learned the mysteries of hitting breaking pitches?
To that end, the Reds sent the 6-foot-3, 251-pound outfielder to the Mexican League this winter because pitchers there throw more breaking pitches than fastballs.
Lutz was called up from Class AA Pensacola in late April to replace disabled Chris Heisey. He started fast but faded and after 34 games was sent back to Pensacola. And he was not called up in September.
“He needs to play more because it is really tough for a young player to come up and be a bench player and get only a handful of starts,” said Price. “That’s a learned craft. He did a really good thing going to Mexico to deal with all the off-speed pitchers. That was his nemesis. He had to learn to hit 2-and-0 breaking balls and changeups. He had to understand that just because you get yourself into a cripple count, like 2-and-0, you won’t always get a fastball in the big leagues.
“So he addressed that weakness,” said Price. “He had some holes and pitchers exposed those holes and he is working to close those holes. He is a good defender, runs the bases well and is a good instinctive player for a guy who didn’t start playing baseball until he was 15.”
Lutz said his Mexican holiday was a good experience: “I got the at-bats I missed out on. I wanted to go to Venezuela, where pitchers come at you more, but Mexico is known for old veterans who throw you 3-and-0 changeups or sliders. When you are in a hitter’s count where you get fastballs here, you get junk there. That was good for the learning process.”
Pena catching on: A free agent after last season with the Detroit Tigers, Brayan Pena was a quick target for the Reds to be a solid backup for catcher Devin Mesoraco
“We felt Ryan Hanigan was going to be expensive to be a guy to share time with Devin and it is Devin’s time,” Price said. “There won’t be any dividing up pitchers, one catcher catching specific pitchers. Devin is our No. 1 catcher and Brayan is our back-up.”
The Cuban-born Pena is known more for his bat than his glove and arm so coach/former catcher Mike Stefanski is working daily with him.