Chiba Lotte Marines right-hander Bryan Corey is back in Japan for a second chance, following a turbulent half-season in 2004 with the Yomiuri Giants, and he is determined to make the most of this opportunity.
It could be his last stop in a long career that has taken him from Jamestown to Oklahoma City to Makuhari with 23 stops in between.
The 36-year-old journeyman has 91 major league games under his belt, having pitched for the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox and Padres. He’s also appeared in 600 minor league games, plus his time with the Giants six years ago and a handful of starts in the Mexican League in 2009.
He was also in Tokyo in 2008 in a Boston uniform when the Red Sox were in town to open the major league season against the Oakland Athletics, and he saw action in an exhibition game against his former Yomiuri teammates.
“I am excited,” he said about joining the Marines and giving it another shot in Japan, and he insists he is better prepared this time, having been with Lotte since the opening of spring camp on Feb. 1, as opposed to 2004 when he came over in mid-season with the aim of helping to shore up a shaky Yomiuri bullpen during a season when the Giants were struggling.
Actually, it was all of Japanese baseball that needed shoring up in ’04. That was the summer of crisis, chaos and uncertainty with the merger of the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix BlueWave, the threat of contraction from 12 teams to 10 — or even eight — and a power struggle among team owners and players and fans, an eventual players strike and finally the creation of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles expansion team and the preservation of the two-league, 12-team system.
Corey did not fare well then, compiling a 1-1 record with a 5.48 ERA in 21 relief appearances, as the Giants finished third in the Central League standings, eight games behind the champion Chunichi Dragons. But Corey’s Japan time then prepared him well for this season, he says.
“It was a good experience in 2004, although there was a lot of pressure with the Giants to perform. I felt like I had to be perfect, and nobody’s perfect,” he said.
“This time I have a second chance and can look back and remember what I learned from the first time around with the Giants. I know the style of the hitters, so it’s a matter of getting re-acclimated. Our pitching coach (Takashi Nishimoto, the one-time Giants ace) here has been real helpful. He communicates real well.
“Sometimes you feel left out after a bad outing, and it seems no one talks to you, but here that is not the case,” Corey said.
A bullpen pitcher most of his career, Corey said he would like to crack the Marines starting rotation but will be happy to fill whatever role Nishimoto and new Lotte manager Norifumi Nishimura ask him to play, from starter to long or middle relief to set-up to closer.
“I had 21 starts in 2009 between Oklahoma City (Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers) and Mexico,” Corey pointed out. “But I’ll be ready to do whatever they ask.”
As for the situation with the new “regime” leading the Marines and the problems last season between the Lotte front office and American manager Bobby Valentine, Corey said he has heard all the stories, but it has nothing to do with him.
“All I know is I am happy to be with this club now. The manager is awesome, the pitching coach and the bullpen coach (Yuji Inoue) are awesome, and every player has been really nice, approachable, friendly,” he said.
About his life as a pitcher, Corey said, “It’s a game. You’re going to have your good days and your bad days. You just have to rely on your strengths and realize one good outing doesn’t make your season, and one bad outing is not the end of the world.
“I am not going to put too much pressure on myself, but just go out and have fun and, when I’m done here, I will retire.”
Now in his 18th professional season, Corey said, “I would like to go for 20 years,” which would mean this season and two more in Chiba.
Corey made his first appearance for the Marines on March 28, tossing 1 1/3 innings of middle relief without giving up a run in Lotte’s come-from-behind, “sayonara” 6-5 victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba Marine Stadium.
He came on again in Wednesday’s game against the Eagles with the score tied and worked two innings, giving up a Todd Linden go-ahead solo homer. He took the loss as his club failed to catch up while subsequent Lotte relievers gave up eight runs in a 13-4 defeat.
But, it’s a long season, and we’ll see how it pans out for the well-traveled Bryan Corey.
|* * * * *|
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com