Rauch to spell Cordero for time being
Nats want incumbent closer to improve velocity on fastball
NEW YORK -- Nationals reliever Chad Cordero found himself in a bizarre situation in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Mets on Wednesday night.
As Cordero was warming up, manager Manny Acta, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and assistant athletic trainer Michael McGowan went to the mound, believing Cordero's shoulder was hurting him.
Cordero convinced them that his shoulder was fine and that all he needed was a little more time to warm up. Cordero said he didn't have time to warm up in the bullpen because there was a mix-up on who was coming into the game. Cordero thought left-hander Ray King was going in, but after he was told that he would be the guy, Cordero was only able to throw seven or eight warmup pitches in the bullpen.
"I was still trying to warm up my arm, so I was doing everything I could to try and get it loose," Cordero said. "It just wasn't loose. The cold weather may have had something to do with it. On Sunday [against the Braves], I was able to get it up there to 87 to 88 [mph]. I think it was a combination of the cold weather and not having enough pitches to get warmed up."
As the game resumed, the Nationals were alarmed to see that Cordero's fastball was clocked in the low-to-high 70s and that he still looked like he was hurting. When he is at his best, Cordero's fastball is in the high 80s and low 90s. It appeared that the closer was in pain whenever he attempted to throw a pitch.
Still, Cordero ended up retiring the Mets in order. He threw 20 pitches, and 17 of them were for strikes.
"I was not hurting at all," Cordero said. "I didn't have enough time to warm up. There was a mix-up in the bullpen. The shoulder felt good. My location was good."
After the game, Acta, Cordero and general manager Jim Bowden entered a closed-door meeting, and both Acta and Bowden wanted to know if the righty was OK. Cordero reiterated that he was fine and that he had needed more time to warm up.
Acta and Bowden had no choice but to believe him, but Acta announced that Cordero would no longer be the closer until his velocity came back. Right-hander Jon Rauch will serve as the closer until further notice.
"We are going to have to pick and choose our spots," Acta said. "I really don't feel right now -- with the way he is throwing -- I should trust him to save a game here."
Cordero, who was activated from the disabled list on Sunday, missed the first 12 games of the season because of shoulder tendinitis.
The Nationals are heading to Miami after Thursday's game against the Mets, and the team is hoping that the warm weather can help Cordero's shoulder. St. Claire believes that playing catch on a regular basis will also help Cordero get his velocity back.
"He needs to continue to get his arm strength back," St. Claire said. "It's cold out there. He feels fine, so that's good."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.