I am back from my respite back in Washington, having filed a mighty expense report and not quite shaken the urge to go to sleep at 9 p.m. every night. The break was nice, and it was a joy reading Sheinin’s coverage, but it’s also good to be back. Since I haven’t been around the past few days, I’ll start the morning off with my favorite item that’s been stuck in my notebook for a while.

Quietly, reliever Todd Coffey has put together one of the more impressive starts to spring of any Nationals player. He’s pitched three times, one inning per appearance, and yielded no runs, one hit and no walks while striking out three.

In the spring, in can be easy not to notice any reliever, since they enter the game well after the opposing starters have left. It is especially easy not to notice Coffey this time of year. In most parks, they built the bullpens down the foul lines, which isn’t much room to get a running start.

The thing that Coffey is best known for, even more than his nasty slider, is his entrance into the game. During his two-plus seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Coffey’s full-speed dashes from the outfield bullpen to the mound became a wildly popular sideshow. For Coffey, though, they carry a purpose.

Coffey began sprinting to the mound in 2004, when he pitched for Class AA Chattanooga in the Cincinnati Reds organization. He was closing for Chattanooga when, one night, his team scored six runs to take the lead. He had gone from watching a loss to pitching in a potential victory. And, well, we’ll let him take it from here.

“I was pumped up,” Coffey said. “I ran out there. I liked the way my legs felt. So now, it has kind of a dual purpose. One, I run to get my legs loose. Two, I get my adrenaline spiked, so I can come down from it. How many times have you seen a reliever come in, he’s got his adrenaline going, and the first pitch he throws is up? Whack, game’s over. We don’t have that luxury of giving up a hit every once in a while. You may have to get out three guys in a row. So, it allows me to get my adrenaline spiked, and then come down.”

The song came later. When Coffey enters the game, the stadium blares the theme song once used by the Ultimate Warrior, the WWF wrestler. One of the Warrior’s gimmicks, you may fondly recall, was sprinting into the ring. The Brewers’ media relations director happened to be a wrestling fan, and suggested the sprinting synergy may make for a good fit. Coffey listened to the song and, as he said, “it was perfect.”


The Nationals’ retooled defense is not off to a great start, but it’s early, Dave Sheinin writes.