Corpas thriving in offseason program

Corpas thriving in offseason program

DENVER -- The Rockies have reason to believe they will be welcoming the old Manuel Corpas back when the new season arrives.

Elbow injuries limited him to 35 appearances in 2009, after he had made 156 appearances the previous two years. But Corpas demonstrated renewed health during instructional league ball in Tucson, Ariz., and he's putting the final touches on a deal to pitch for Escogido during the second half of the Dominican Winter League season.

Corpas' second-half performance in 2007 helped the club to the World Series. Since then, his performance has been spotty at best. The reason behind his struggles, however, became clear in 2009, when he underwent surgery in August to remove a bone chip from his right elbow. An infection in the area prevented him from returning to the active roster.

Corpas, 26, was nowhere near regular-season form in instructional ball. But he reached 94 mph with his fastball, which is no small development. Corpas' velocity had been down, or at least inconsistent, for the past couple of years -- a sign that something was not quite right.

"He had a chance to throw in instructional ball, facing guys from the Diamondbacks' program and in camp days," Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson said. "From a pitching standpoint, he was a little rusty. But the priority was to make sure he was healthy.

"He's going to pitch in winter ball, and from that point go to our mini-camp in the Dominican Republic. He should be prepared for Spring Training."

Tom O'Connell, Corpas' agent, confirmed that Corpas is healthy and could be pitching for Escogido sometime in November.

Corpas is in line to be another addition to a bullpen that made several improvements during 2009 and is shaping up to have a big-market feel, provided the Rockies don't make a trade and reach deals this offseason.

Closer Huston Street is eligible for arbitration and could be signed to a multi-year contract. The club has a $5.4 million option on right-hander Rafael Betancourt, but could negotiate a multi-year deal for less money in 2010. Corpas is entering the third year of a four-year, $8.03 million contract and is due to make $2.75 million in 2010.

That's not counting righty Taylor Buchholz, who missed 2009 because of Tommy John elbow ligament surgery and is due back at some point during the 2010 season. Buchholz made $1.06 million last year, his first of arbitration eligibility.

Caribbean updates: Corpas will have some familiar faces waiting for him when he joins the Escogido team. Catching prospect Michael McKenry is 3-for-17 with two doubles, and righty pitching prospect Shane Lindsay is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA. Second baseman Eric Young Jr., who finished 2009 in the Majors, also is slated to play for Escogido. ... Righty Esmil Rogers, who went a combined 11-7 with a 4.41 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A and made one Major League appearance, is on the Licey roster in the Dominican Republic but he has not pitched. ... Righty prospect Samuel Deduno gave up three runs, two earned, and three hits in 2 1/3 innings in his only start for Aguilas. Reliever Alberto Alburquerque, whom the Rockies obtained from the Cubs for infielder Jeff Baker, has pitched two scoreless innings in two appearances for Aguilas. ... In Venezuela, righty Jhoulys Chacin gave up one run in three innings in his first start for Caracas. Lefty reliever Franklin Morales and righty prospect Edgmer Escalona, who went a combined 3-2 with a 2.47 ERA for Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa, are listed as members of the Caracas team but have yet to appear. ... Infielder Jonathan Herrera, who had a brief stint with the Rockies in 2008, is hitting .171 with one RBI for Anzoategui.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.