Life of Bryan has ups, downs

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / April 30, 2008

It can't be as bad as the last time, when he had to explain to 4 1/2-year-old Brooke that she wouldn't be coming to Fenway Park anymore to see Wally, or her friends that gathered nightly in the Sox family room.

It won't be like the first time it happened with the Red Sox, either, when he'd just made arrangements to have his car shipped up to Boston from Texas and discovered he wouldn't be here when it arrived.

The apartment in Braintree, the one he leased, gave up, then took back before his 30 days were up, at least it won't be like last week, when he slept on the floor without a stick of furniture in the place.

And Christine? She'll offer a comforting word - his wife always has - but he's seen the light dim in eyes that once shined with excitement but now try to mask the disappointment. At least they'll have big-league insurance coverage until Opening Day next year - one day this season in the big leagues and you qualify - and if the bills need to be sent to another forwarding address, hey, they've been down that road together many times.

This is what it is like to be Bryan Corey, the Red Sox pitcher designated for assignment yesterday, but it could be any one of scores of ballplayers who find themselves trapped in a netherworld that offers tantalizing glimpses of a place almost too fabulous to imagine, then just as quickly snatches them away.

They're antiseptic terms for procedural moves in baseball - designated for assignment, placed on waivers, outrighted, released - but in the end, they usually all wind up meaning the same thing. Getting your heart ripped out. Bryan Corey has been with the Red Sox less than two years, and this is his third DFA, second in less than a month.

Bryan Corey is 34 now. He has pitched in Jamestown, N.Y., and Fayetteville, Ark., Toledo and Tucson and Sacramento, Portland, Las Vegas and Albuquerque, Japan, and Mexico, and for too few days in the big leagues. He has been in nine big-league organizations, two of them twice. He has been passed over too many times to remember, has been the last man cut by too many teams, and has had just enough cups of coffee in the big leagues in 13 years to add up to one year of major-league service time.

Feel sorry for him? That's the last thing he would want. A little understanding, maybe, that there's a huge difference between the big-league life lived by Manny and Papi and 'Tek and Schill, and the one lived by Bryan Corey and the many like him inhabiting the periphery of the game, here one day, a line of small type in the newspaper the next.

"We're not all millionaires," he said the other morning in Tropicana Field. "I have a nice life, a comfortable life - well, somewhat comfortable."

The other night, when he was standing in that empty apartment he'd reupped on because he'd decided he'd pitch in Pawtucket again - and the call came to fly to Tampa to join the Sox the next day - all he could do was laugh and laugh.

"The last place I thought I'd be," he said. "Especially this quick."

Think about it. He'd rented the place at the end of spring training, gambling that this time he was going to stick with the Sox. Then came word he had been designated, and he figured he'd be traded or picked up on waivers, so he gave his notice. No trade, no waivers, he decided he'd sign a minor league deal with the PawSox, so he was scrambling to get the utilities put back in his name, his furniture retrieved from a buddy's house where he'd stored it, and then the call saying, we want you back.

Shoot, it was too late to drive back to the hotel he'd been staying at in Pawtucket, so he just sacked out on the floor, drove to Pawtucket in the morning to fetch his baseball stuff, then boarded a flight to Tampa.

Where he spent three whole days in the big leagues, pitching once, then was designated again.

Maybe this time he'll get traded. The season is almost a month old now, teams have a better sense of what they need. Maybe he'll get picked up on waivers. Or maybe it'll be the same thing all over again. Bryan Corey will either accept being outrighted to Pawtucket, like Kyle Snyder was, or he'll declare free agency, look at other opportunities, and decide he'll go back to Pawtucket and bide his time again.

"It's tough," he said, "and how can I say this, but I'm almost getting used to this. Every year it seems to be something."

His gut told him he was in trouble the last time, after getting lit up in back-to-back relief outings just when it seemed he had the team won. When he didn't get traded, his gut told him he'd clear waivers, too, and then he stayed up all night, studying rosters, trying to figure out what team might give him the best shot at getting back to the big leagues.

In the end, he decided to take a minor league deal with the Red Sox.

"This organization has been good to me," he said. "I've got a ring here. I know there are some people in here who like me. That carries a lot of weight for me."

He believes that if just once he got the chance to stick with a team for an entire summer, a team that didn't wish he was 6 feet 4 inches instead of an even 6 feet, and let him relax instead of forever looking over his shoulder, he could put up the numbers. The ones who don't give up, that's what they all believe.

And Christine, as she did last summer, will put Brooke on a plane to her grandmother's, pack up the car with their two dogs, and make the drive across country from Arizona to wherever her husband is. "She's the unsung hero," he said. "Without her I wouldn't have a chance of being where I am."

For now, he'll wait for the phone to ring.

"There probably aren't that many people who have gone through as much as I have in my career," he said. "I just need to be given an opportunity, but you got to earn that opportunity. You've got to pitch."

Gordon Edes can be reached at

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