A month ago, if asked to list key players on the Milwaukee Brewers roster, few fans would have uttered the name Todd Coffey. But the 28-year-old right-handed reliever has quietly given Brewers fans a reason to be optimistic about what's ahead in 2009.
Coffey was released by Cincinnati on his birthday last September and picked up by Milwaukee the next day. He appeared in nine games for the Brewers last season, giving up zero runs in seven and a third innings. He started 2009 where he left off, blanking opponents in his first seven appearances and extending his streak to 16 scoreless outings before giving up a home run at Philadelphia last week.
As a setup pitcher out of the bullpen, Coffey is rarely called on to face more than a few batters each game. But in filling that role, he's done just what first-year manager Ken Macha has asked him to do: get guys out. Coffey has walked just three of 50 batters he's faced this year, and he's managed to force 26 ground balls. Three times, he's inherited bases-loaded situations and gotten out of the inning unscathed.
So far, the Brewers are scoring 4.6 runs a game, the same as in 2008. The difference has been pitching. Last year, the team had CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets in its starting rotation, but with those two gone, the bullpen will be tested more often. And while fans are expecting a lot out of all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, who just returned from injury this week, Coffey's early performance demands some attention as well.