FORT MYERS, Fla. –– Aaron Cook sees the reminder every day. As he walks into the Red Sox clubhouse, the right-hander can't dodge the sight of the 2007 World Series banner draped over his side of the room.
As a pitcher for the Rockies back then, Cook — who was tabbed with the loss in the deciding Game 4 — finished on the wrong side of history.
Nearly five years removed from the crushing defeat, Cook has come to grips with the result.
"It's not that bad," Cook said. "In Colorado, we had a really good run at the end of the season. We didn't win the last four games of the season, but we still accomplished things that nobody else had accomplished in Colorado."
A new challenge lies ahead for Cook with the Red Sox. After injuries marred his 2011 season and resulted in his release from Colorado, the 33-year-old enters this spring training with a new organization.
Before Cook became a mainstay on the Rockies' roster in 2003, he was a promising prospect for High-A Salem in Colorado's system. It was there in 2002 that the righty was first introduced to Bob McClure, the team's pitching coach.
Cook is counting on his old confidant McClure, now the Red Sox pitching coach, to help rejuvenate his career in new surroundings. Two weeks into the reunion, the hurler is celebrating like he's 21 all over again.
"[McClure] kind of helped develop me into the pitcher that I became," Cook said. "So it throws me back a little bit. I got that mindset like I'm still a little kid –– fighting, clawing and scratching. He's there to be part of it. For me, it just reset everything for me and I feel like I have a fresh start."
But Cook's past still affects his present. Based on his injury-plagued shoulder history, the Red Sox have limited Cook this spring, offering him more days to recuperate between bullpen sessions. He also throws fewer pitches in those sessions than usual.
That adjustment, McClure said, is also attributed to Cook's age. After Cook tossed a pair of sessions earlier his week, the Red Sox pitching coach returned impressed with the progress of his old protégé.
"It was really good," McClure said of Cook's bullpen. "In fact, it's as good as I've seen him throw in a long time. I saw him from the other side when I was a pitching coach in Kansas City and we played the Rockies and his stuff is a little better right now."
It's a testament to the communication between McClure and Cook. Since Cook credits McClure for jumpstarting his major-league career as a prospect, he's willing to soak in the coach's counsel as a veteran.
For McClure, their rapport also alleviates the pressure of the job now.
"If you've had a relationship with somebody and you want to make a point about something –– whether it's health, pitches or whatever –– because you've built trust in your relationship before, it's much easier to recommend something that might be a little different than he's never done before and for him buy into it," McClure said.
At this point in Cook's career, he's open to anything. In the past few years, he's been slowed by injuries, suffering a broken leg, a broken finger –– a freak accident which he slammed a door on his finger –– while also battling shoulder soreness.
"All of those things just compounded themselves into being inconsistent with my delivery," Cook said. "I believe if I have a consistent delivery, I'll be able to replicate and throw my sinker to either side of the plate. That's what it boils down to."
It quickly washed away memories of Cook's All-Star season in 2008, when he posted a 16-9 record with a 3.96 ERA.
That's why McClure's influence holds clout. Cook is eager to resume activities with McClure after calling his mechanics in the past "out of whack." And Red Sox reliever and former Rockies pitcher Franklin Morales is pulling for him.
"He was always a good teammate and pitcher," Morales said, reflecting on their days in Colorado. "He was always trying to help everyone out and knew the game well."
Even with that comprehension, Cook isn't guaranteed anything. He signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox and will be fighting against Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Felix Doubront for a spot in the rotation.
But Cook said he's prepared for the competition. Under McClure's tutelage, the right-hander hopes to revive his career and create new memories in Boston -– possibly at his former team's expense.
"I talked to my daughter and hopefully we can go play the Rockies" in the 2012 World Series, Cook said "And I can go and pitch Game 4 again."
Then, that loss in 2007 would seem like a distant memory.
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