But it wasn’t in the bullpens where pitchers were truly put to the test. Today was when the dreaded 300-yard shuttle run took place, where players have 60 seconds to complete it. They go back and forth, 50 yards at a time and usually start sucking wind two-thirds of the way through. Last year, Brandon Morrow needed a bucket at the end of his run — and not to stash wine coolers in.
One of the guys who got through it surprisingly easily this year was former big league closer Chad Cordero, in the second year of his comeback attempt. Cordero dropped 26 pounds this off-season after joining Weight Watchers and hiring a personal trainer to work on his leg strength and core conditioning.
Cordero’s fastball topped out at 87 mph last year, but mainly hung around the 84 mph mark. That wasn’t going to cut it, even for a guy that threw 91 mph at the best of times and usually hung around only 89 or 90 mph.
“It was a pretty long way from where I wanted to be,” he said.
So, he decided to drop weight and condition himself like never before. Now, he’s back to weighing what he did in college.
“Hopefully, it will help out my arm,” he said of losing all the weight and building leg strength. “Now, I won’t have to use my shoulder to do all the work.”
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is impressed.
“He looks good, doesn’t he?” Wakamatsu said. “He’s lost a lot of weight.”
Cordero said his arm has felt good in throwing sessions this winter. He said the ball came out of his hand free and easy and his arm was painless during today’s bullpen session. He’s hoping to build from there.
“I think that as I keep progressing in my bullpens, the velocity will start to come back,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Losing all that weight had its benefits during the shuttle run. “It’s a lot easier when you aren’t carrying those extra pounds,” he said.
No word on whether anyone failed the run and will have to do it over.
Had a nice, long chat with Dan Cortes, the Class AA pitcher acquired in the Yuniesky Betancourt trade. He’s had a pretty eventful life already at a young age and says he’s grown up quite a bit. I’ll write more for you later in the paper.
Wakamatsu says he thinks the first day of workouts ran more smoothly than they did a year ago when his entire staff was new. Now, he says, returning players understand the team’s philosophy and system and are helping some of the newcomers adjust.
All teams do roughly the same things at camp, with minor variations to suit their particular goals. The Mariners put everybody through defensive fundamental drills this morning, but are trying to simplify and tweak some aspects of it based on experiences in game situations last year.
“We’re changing some things last year defensively and those went extremely smooth on the first day,” he said. “I think you go in wanting to be aggressive and then sometimes you cut back on those things, come back to reality a little bit. We’re still going to be aggressive in a lot of things, but with some of the fundamentals we’re just trying to simplify it.”
Wakamatsu spoke to the players out on the field for several minutes prior to launching into a bunt defense drill. He wanted them to understand the team’s approach and said just about every one of them seemed to get it right away.
Hernandez, as we mentioned, threw today. He appears to have trimmed down even more than in previous springs and could possibly be in the best condition of his career.
Wakamatsu was due to chat with Hernandez this afternoon as part of the “one-on-one” meetings he’ll have with every player in camp. Of the five guys he’ll chat with today, only Mauricio Robles, the second pitcher acquired in the Jarrod Washburn deal, is new.