Chad Cordero plays catch in his first day as a Mariner, under the watchful eye of Seattle trainer Rick Griffin.
Chad Cordero showed up in camp today after making the 5 1/2-hour drive last night from Southern California. He said he turned down a more lucrative offer from another team — believed to be the Texas Rangers — because the Mariners were more appealing to him for a variety of reasons. He knew some players on the team (Roy Corcoran among them), he has a good relationship with John Wetteland, his bullpen coach one season in Washington, and he wanted to stay on the West Coast, being a California guy.
No doubt, the fact that the Mariners’ closer’s job is wide open played a factor, but Cordero is not even thinking about that, he said. Coming off surgery for a torn labrum last July, his priority is just getting healthy. I asked him if becoming a closer again is his ultimate goal.
“Yeah, of course, eventually,” he said. “This year, I’ll do whatever they want me to do. I just want to go out there and pitch. After only throwing in six games last year, I’m antsy to get back out there again.”
Right now, Cordero is throwing bullpens three days a week (working out this winter with Eddie Guardado), and playing catch every day. He’ll continue a similar routine here, but he realizes he has to take it slowly. Here’s what he said about his health:
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m actually feeling real good. I haven’t had any setbacks so far. I’ve been throwing bullpens since about the first week in February. Everything has been good so far. Hopefully, I get can healthy pretty quick, but not force it. At the same time, be up there by mid-May or early June, or maybe even earlier than that. It kind of all depends on how it reacts when I start doing all the activities here.”
Manager Don Wakamatsu even mentioned the remote possibility that Cordero could be ready to pitch in a late Cactus League game, but Cordero said it’s more likely that he would stay here in Peoria for extended spring training when camp breaks and pitch in his first game there. If and when he makes it back to the majors, he has no illusions of stepping right into the closer’s job.
“Coming off shoulder surgery, I don’t expect to be in the role I’m used to,” he said. “I have to go out there and prove I’m healthy. Whether when I come up they want me to pitch in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, I just have to go out and show I’m healthy.”
Cordero talked about his frustration last year, when his velocity dropped 10 mph, or even more, from his normal 89 to 90 mph in his heyday, when he saved 47 games for the Nationals in 2005.
“I think it was all because of the shoulder,” he said. “It was weird, because I never felt any pain. I guess it was hiding in there. It sucked, basically. Not knowing what was going on with the shoulder. One game I was throwing 78, 79 against the Mets. I got them out 1-2-3, but I was going, ‘Holy cow, what’s going on in there?’. Once I found out what was going on (a torn labrum), it was big sigh of relief. It was because I was hurt.”
I asked him about the timetable for recovering from this surgery.
“They said it’s normally about nine to 10 months before you start to throw full speed again. Right now, I’m at the eight-month mark. They said it could be sooner because of the way my arm has been reacting. There hasn’t been any setbacks. I haven’t had any pain since the surgery. They gave me painkillers, I didn’t even have to use them after the surgery. I’ve been very lucky so far.”
The reality is that shoulder surgeries are far harder to come back from, historically, than elbow operations, but Cordero seems confident.
“For me, it’s knowing I can get back. With the way it’s been reacting, it’s been good so far. That’s just what I think of. I haven’t had any setbacks. Hopefullly, it will stay the same way.”
At the same time, Cordero knows he can’t rush it.
“If I go too hard, my career can be over. I can blow it out again, and I may never pitch again. I always have to think about that, knowing I want to pitch another 10, 11, 12 years. I’m 26, and I want to pitch until I’m 35, 36. That’s really what I think about. If I go too fast, I’m going to blow it out again. I really don’t want to go throw that process again. It’s not a fun process to go through.”
Here’s Wakamatsu on the acquisition: “We had a good talk, Rick (Adair, the pitching coach) and I. I’m surprised that he’s throwing up to 50 pitches in a bullpen. He still says he’s 75, 80 percent. We’re awfully happy to have him. I’ve heard nothing but great reports. John Wetteland had him over in Washington so I think he was a big influence why he came here, too.
“He feels he’s at 75, 80 percent so we’ll just keep progressing that. He’ll probably throw a bullpen on Sunday because we’re kind of hectic. He’ll play catch today and throw a bullpen on Sunday.
“It’s just a matter of getting in shape and getting his arm to where it was. But all the reports have been that it was a fairly minor surgery compared to what they thought it was going to be so those are all good indications.
“We’re going to try to move him along slowly and see where he’s at. We’d like to be able to see … I can’t even predict whether we’re going to have him in a game or not. He might turn the corner fast, which was kind of exciting that he’s already thrown five days a week and up to 50 percent. It’s just going to be gauging that.
“This guy’s been proven and an All-Star, 47 saves. Again, all the indications are that he should be able to get back to that. That’s what’s exciting. You always want to be able to add depth and somebody of that caliber, you obviously look forward to it. But obviously there’s a need where we’re at right now and depth is probably the biggest word for us.
“We’re kind of looking at it like we’re not counting on it before it happens. Obviously it’s in the back of our mind that that’s a potential reinforcement and a good one, but right now we’re not changing plans about anything. We’re still going to have to have a closer on day one so we’re going to continue evaluating.”