Catching up with Chad Cordero
I'd like to interrupt Straspalooza (or is it Strasburgeddon?) to bring you another installment of our continuing series, Great Ex-Nationals of the Cactus League. Today's guest is Chad Cordero, the Nationals' all-time franchise leader in saves (113) and ERA (2.78, minimum 100 IP), and now a non-roster invitee in the Seattle Mariners' camp.
As you surely recall, Cordero's time in Washington did not end well. He was cut loose by the Nationals at the end of 2008, a season in which he made only six appearances before being lost to a shoulder injury (specifically, a torn labrum) that ultimately required surgery. He latched on with the Mariners in March 2009 and spent the year rehabbing his shoulder. The Mariners re-signed him this winter to a minor league deal, and he hopes to make it back to the majors this season.
When I caught up to Cordero on Tuesday before the Mariners' game in Peoria, Ariz., he appeared thinner than I had ever seen him, and thrilled to be back on a mound again. He has also become a father since we last saw him -- with a 10-month-old daughter and another child on the way.
Q. How tough was your road back from surgery?
A. It was real tough. [The Mariners] signed me on March 12, and I stayed here [at the team's minor league facility in Peoria] until August, just playing long-toss, throwing buillpens, running -- anything I could to make my arm feel better. I had a couple of setbacks, and that slowed it down a little bit, but I think it helped taking pretty much the whole year off. I threw in a couple of rookie league games down here and a couple of games in [Class A] Everett in August, just to kind of get me used to it again. My arm still wasn't feeling great but it was a huge for me to back on a mound. This winter, I gave myself about a month and a half off from throwing. Then I started throwing three times a week with my old bullpen coach at Fullerton, and I think that really helped out.
Q. How close are you now to being all the way back?
A. I think I'm pretty much there. I pitched on Friday and they said I was at 87-88 [mph] consistently and I touched 89 once or twice. So I'm pretty much almost there. I feel like my change up is better than it's ever been, and so is my slider. And location-wise, it's like I never left.
Q. How great is it to be back?
A. When I walked off the mound on Friday, I had this huge grin on my face -- just because it felt so good to be back out there throwing. This is what I love to do. It just felt so good.
Q. Did you ever question whether you could ever make it back?
A. Yeah. There were a couple of times last year where I was thinking to myself, "I may neve throw another pitch ever again." Shoulder injuries aren't easy to come back from. It used to be where guys never came back. Luckily for me and other guys, the surgery has gotten a lot better now and the chances of coming back are greater.
Q. Despite the way it ended, do you miss Washington?
A. Definitely. I love that place. I love that city. I loved the guys on that team. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully one day I can go back and play there again.
Q. Did you know that Drew Storen, the Nationals' 10th overall draft pick, credits you with turning him into a closer? Apparently, he was a batboy at a game in Cincinnati in 2003, right after you got called up, and --
A. Yeah, I read about that, and I totally remember him. I remember he was standing by himself, I think it was right center field. So I just went over and started talking to him. I didn't realize he was the one who got drafted until I read that. I didn't put it all together. Tell him I said hello. When I was talking to him, he was such a cool kid. I guess I'm the one to blame for him becoming a reliever.
March 9, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
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