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03/20/09 2:55 PM ET
Cordero looks to get on track for Reds
Closer to get extra work in Minors to gain comfort with ankle
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Earlier this month, when closer Francisco Cordero was struggling, the prevailing view in Reds camp was that it was too early in spring to be concerned. Now it's just under two weeks before camp breaks and Cordero hasn't gotten on track. The 33-year-old has an 18.00 ERA in six appearances with 12 earned runs, 17 hits and four walks allowed over six innings.
Is it time to be concerned yet?"It doesn't do any good to get concerned," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "All you can do is figure out how to get him back. Concern helps no one and worry helps even less. You just have to go to work." To that end, the decision has been made to have Cordero get some extra outings in Minor League games, including one on Saturday. "Instead of being three days in between [outings], or a couple, we'll get him on more of a routine and see if he can get into a rhythm," Reds pitching coach Dick Pole said on Friday. "Right now, he just doesn't have good flow to him." Thursday's one-inning outing vs. the Red Sox was Cordero's most troubling performance yet. Facing mostly Minor League hitters, he gave up four runs, four hits and four walks. All of the contact was very solid as his pitches stayed up in the strike zone. "He got two strikes, and then he couldn't locate where he wanted to," Baker said. "He was ahead of almost all of those hitters. He said he's feeling good. His ankle is feeling good. He's pushing off good. It's a matter of location now." In September, Cordero had arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle, where a bone spur was removed. The injury had bothered all of last season and even in the season before that. Since it's his push-off foot, it is also the source of much of his power. Because of the rehabilitation, Cordero didn't start a throwing program until late and his running was restricted slightly at the start of camp. On March 8, after reporting ankle stiffness during an outing, X-rays were taken as a precaution and were negative. "Finally, I think he's starting to trust his ankle a little," Pole said. "He was a little tentative. When you have something that's been hurting you for a couple of years and have it repaired, you can be a little tentative at first, until you prove to yourself that nothing is going to happen." Pole said that Cordero's velocity on Thursday was in the 92-93 mph range, which is lower than where he'd be in the regular season. "You have to take into account getting adrenaline flowing during the course of a season," Pole said. "Last year, his results were better, so we didn't pay attention as much to it. Looking back at last year, his velocity was about the same and then, all of a sudden, the last couple of times he pitched, he was popping up to 94-95 [mph]." Cordero was 5-4 with a 3.33 ERA and 34 saves in 72 games for the Reds last season. He has three years remaining on a four-year, $46 million contract he signed last winter. "We still have two weeks, and he'll get some consecutive days," Baker said. "The more he throws, the stronger he'll get."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.