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Correia excited about fresh start in Pittsburgh

Correia excited about fresh start in Pittsburgh

Correia excited about fresh start in Pittsburgh
BRADENTON, Fla. -- It was just eight words, none at all complex, that Kevin Correia uttered while sitting in front of his locker at Pirate City on Wednesday. Strung together, however, those eight words expressed a gamut of emotions and perspective into the most trying time of Correia's life.

"I am really excited," he said, "to play baseball again."

Correia talks about being at peace now, as much as he can be, given the tragedy that struck his family last year. Losing his younger brother Trevor in a hiking accident on May 8 isn't something that the right-hander will ever entirely move past.

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What has been renewed, though, is a desire to play baseball -- a desire to compete.

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"Last year, [it] was hard to go out there and be excited about baseball," Correia said. "I wasn't getting as mad when I wasn't pitching as well. It was hard to put the importance on a baseball game that I could before, just with my frame of mind. It was the hardest year I ever had to deal with. It just puts things in perspective for you."

Time off and being thrust into new surroundings has helped in the healing process, Correia said. He signed a two-year deal with the Pirates back in December, making this his first Spring Training experience outside the state of Arizona.

Some eyes widened when the Pirates gave Correia $8 million in a free-agent deal that followed a mediocre season. Correia finished last year with a 10-10 record and a 5.40 ERA, while pitching his home games in one of baseball's friendliest pitchers' parks. There is so much to Correia's 2010 season, though, that numbers alone can't reveal.

He won four of his first five starts, and appeared headed for a year similar to the one he had with the Padres in 2009 (12-11 with a 3.91 ERA in 198 innings). But word of Trevor's tragic death came not long after, and when Correia returned after a short stint on the bereavement list, consistency didn't come back with him.

Correia had some good stretches, but he also had some bad ones -- and the latter proved detrimental to most statistical categories.

"It was a hard year," Correia said. "I think my numbers don't really reflect how I threw the ball. I felt like I never really got on a consistent run like I did the year before."

Now, Correia finds himself on a pitching staff that needs him to emerge as a stable front-of-the-rotation presence. It's not an entirely new spot for Correia, 30, to be in -- as he has gotten used to being the older guy in a number of young rotations.

He had already established himself with the Giants, as San Francisco's wave of young starters -- Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez -- made their Major League debuts. Injuries to Chris Young and Jake Peavy shortly after Correia arrived in San Diego again thrust the right-hander into a veteran-type role.

Now, no one in the Pirates' rotation matches Correia's 231 games of big league experience. That fact doesn't bother him one bit. In fact, he embraces the opportunity to be the experienced one in the bunch.

"I think I'm good in that situation because I'm not the old guy with 15 years in," Correia said. "With the younger guys, I think it's important for them to become comfortable. They know that, even though I'm a more veteran pitcher on the team, I'm not going to get on [them] real hard. They are comfortable around me because I'm not that guy with 15 years that they're scared to talk to. It just adds to them getting more comfortable in a big league situation."

"He has seen some things, he's done some things. He's had some adversity, he's had some success," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Those are all critical in getting the ear of a younger pitcher, and someone he might be able to help out."

Correia had offers to go elsewhere this winter, but he found the Pirates' opportunity most appealing because it offers him the chance to make a substantial impact immediately. He wasn't as interested in going to a club and sliding in as its fifth starter. Correia believes he is better than that. He believes, too, that he can make a difference with a team he feels isn't all that far from making the same leap into contention as the Padres did last year.

"This looked like a good opportunity for me -- and a good opportunity to jump on board with a team that, I think, is about to start playing pretty well," Correia said. "It's a good organization to get into. With the history and the fan support in Pittsburgh, if I could be there when it turns around, it could be pretty fun."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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