The seemingly never ending pipeline of players that come to McCoy Stadium through the Red Sox system has pumped out another “underdog” to cheer. We are all well acquainted with the Lars Andersons of the world. High draft choices who are ranked by “Baseball America” as “can’t miss” prospects. We’re also now familiar with a guy like Daniel Nava, who defied the odds to make his M.L. debut this week. There may be another feel good story around the corner for Red Sox fans, pitcher Robert Coello.
Coello (pronounced Kway-oh) pitched an inning and a third early in 2009 for the PawSox. He went 5-3 with an ERA of 2.05 for Salem after that. He had been pitching well for Portland this season (4-1) splitting time between the rotation and the pen. Coello is pleased to be back in Triple A. “I’ve worked really hard to get here. I will continue to do that and we’ll see how the season ends up.” Coello points to last winter as the key to his success this summer. “Being in Mexico and then going to Venezuela for the playoffs helped me a lot.” He said he was ready to fill any role. “They stretched me out, in a long relief role, 4 or 5 innings. We had a young rotation in Portland. After Felix Doubront was promoted here, I took over his spot in the rotation and it went well. Now. I’m here.” When Sea Dogs manager Arnie Beyeler told him about the promotion, the 6’5 righthander put forth a calm demeanor, but inside he was thrilled. “I was really excited. Like I said, I’ve worked hard and the organization has given me this opportunity.”
Coello got his “feet wet” right away. He threw 3 innings allowing no runs, and no hits with 4 strikeouts against Louisville. A successful debut like that builds confidence. “Oh, absolutely. It felt good going in there with a little rust, but I wanted to pitch so badly here. I got help from good defense. A couple of plays by Gil (Velazquez) and the strikeouts. I felt really good and confident and we’ll just build from that.”
Coello’s “out” pitch is described by pitching coach Rich Sauveur as a “forkball with knuckleball movement”. “It was a pitch we used to mess around with.” said Coello. When the Angels converted me from a catcher to a pitcher, we joked with it, until they saw that it worked.” Thus, the birth of a weapon. Coello adds that it took a while, but he’s very comfortable with the pitch. “It’s second nature. The key is maintaining it, like any other pitch.”
Coello’s odyssey began when he was drafted by the Reds in 2004. He landed in the Angels organization in 2007 and they moved him from behind the plate to the mound. It’s not that Coello was against the idea, it was just a little unsettling. “I didn’t really know what to do. I called my family, my agent. It was a little upsetting, because like anyone, I wanted to have the opportunity to succeed or fail at something before it was taken away. Ultimately, it was for the best.”
Like Daniel Nava, Robert is an alum of the Independent Golden League, a spot where dreams can go to fluorish or die. For Coello, they moved him into the Red Sox organization. He looks at Nava and is excited to be a part of a team that scours the back lots and leaves no stone unturned. “Nava’s a phenomenal person. It couldn’t happen to a better guy. Me, I’ve been in and out of organized ball. When you feel you have ‘it’, you continue to fight. Guys like Nava and me, it’s like anything in life. You just stay with it. We stood out in the Independent League and of course, we got picked up.”
For Robert Coello, a soft-spoken Florida resident, a chance was all he ever wanted. The cream has risen to the top. He’s in Pawtucket, a phone call away from the Majors. “I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing. Work hard and keep my focus.” It’s been a successful formula so far.