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PawSox's Cook offers praise for ex-SRA star Iannetta

April 6, 2012

Chris Iannetta

PAWTUCKET — Chris Iannetta made his major-league debut on August 27, 2006. That night’s starting pitcher for Colorado happened to be Aaron Cook, one the PawSox arms to keep close tabs on at the onset of the 2012 season.
Let the record show that Cook and Iannetta hit it off instantly, the folks at baseball-reference.com denoting that the pitcher tossed eight innings of two-run ball in Colorado’s 6-3 win against San Diego.
“He was one of those catchers that I had a lot of confidence in; I loved throwing to him,” was the praise Cook lavished upon Iannetta, an alumnus of St. Raphael Academy. “I’d throw to him today if he was back there.”
As someone who interacted with Iannetta on a daily basis from the tail end of the 2006 campaign until the final out of Colorado’s 2011 season, Cook saw firsthand as the backstop fought a seemingly never-ending battle with consistency. The constant referendums seemed to come down the pike on a yearly basis with Iannetta subjected to demotions to the minor leagues in order to fix whatever flaw was hindering him at that particular moment.
Throughout all the trials and tribulations that had a habit of popping up during Iannetta’s tenure with the Rockies, Cook saw someone who had a burning desire to achieve success.
“He was the kind of guy who was always looking for answers and wanted to continue to improve himself,” the 33-year-old Cook said. “He was always harder on himself than anybody else was, but he was prepared and definitely made it easier for the pitcher when he was back there.
“No matter if he was doing great or not having such a good time, he was always the same guy,” Cook explained further.
Cook is not alone when saying that a change of scenery figures to go a long way in helping Iannetta revive his career. Scheduled to turn 29 on Sunday, Iannetta was behind the plate for the Angels’ season opener Friday night, hitting in the No. 8 spot.
“Any time you get a chance to start over fresh with a clean slate, you just go out there and have fun and prove yourself,” was Cook’s way of wishing Iannetta good luck. “I think Chris is going to do a great job.”
Like his former battery mate, Cook is looking to turn over a new leaf after spending all 10 of his MLB seasons with the Rockies. After being held back early in spring training due to shoulder concerns, the right-hander appeared in four Grapefruit League games with Boston giving him the starting nod in three of them. Working a total of 14 1/3 innings, Cook permitted seven hits to go along with six strikeouts and four walks.
“For me I thought (the Red Sox) represented the best opportunity,” Cook said. “They had some starting rotation spots that weren’t answered.”
Another factor that led to Cook signing a minor-league free agent deal with the BoSox stemmed from his familiarity with Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure. The two worked side by side for parts of three seasons in Colorado Springs – the Triple-A affiliate of the Rockies – with McClure holding the down the fort as the team’s pitching coach while Cook was seeking to clear that final hurdle in order to join Colorado’s rotation.
“I couldn’t be happier with my decision,” said Cook, who can opt out of his deal on May 1. “You hear players talk about it all the time, but I can only worry about tomorrow. If I start to worry about everything else, I won’t be able to focus on going out and just pitching.”
Cook will start the opener of Saturday’s single-admission doubleheader against Lehigh Valley with prospect Alex Wilson slated to get the ball in the nightcap. The plan is for Cook to throw in the neighborhood of 80 pitches, that according to PawSox skipper Arnie Beyeler.
“We want to keep him in a position where he’s ready to rock and roll if he’s the guy (Boston) wants,” Beyeler said.
A year ago the PawSox, particularly the team’s young pitchers and catchers, benefited from the guiding hand that veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood brought to clubhouse. Beyeler expects Cook, he of 72 career wins and 238 starts, to pick up where Millwood left off.
“Millwood would talk to [catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Exposito] about calling the game and showing pitches early in the game when he may need them later to get guys out,” Beyeler said. “Guys like Kevin and Aaron, they can show little shortcuts that can help put the young guys at ease.”

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