Those of you who have worn the Curly W since the beginning will remember the name Chad Cordero very fondly. In the roller coaster season that was 2005, the then 23-year-old phenom both charmed and electrified Washington during the club’s surprising 81-81 inaugural year in the Nation’s Capital.
Both MLB.com and USA Today ran features on former Washington Nationals closer yesterday, as the 31-year-old embarks on a physically and emotionally taxing comeback to Major League Baseball. Now a special invite with the Los Angeles Angels, the team he rooted for as a kid growing up in California, Cordero pitched against live MLB pitching yesterday for the first time since a failed comeback attempt in 2010 with the Seattle Mariners.
Cordero pitched one inning Monday for the Angels big league squad, giving up a home run against his first batter, before retiring the next three hitters in order. Most will likely chalk up the lead-off home run to jitters, but the most important note from the day was that he was consistently hitting 89-91 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball. Those of you who remember Cordero’s sudden decline in Washington know that his career fell apart after a shoulder injury sapped him of his velocity, and the effectiveness of his changeup evaporated.
As yesterday’s features noted, those shoulder injuries were only the start of Cordero’s struggles. Out of the game by the age of 28, the former All-Star and his wife lost their 11-week-old child, Teyha, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The emotional toll this took on the right-hander made a comeback at the time near impossible.
Cordero, however, has now lost nearly 40 pounds, according to accounts, and it appears that his fastball and love for the game has returned. It’s unknown where he will end up out of camp, but it is almost certain he will not follow the big league club to Los Angeles. At the age of 31, Cordero faces some major uphill challenges as he tries to make his way back to the show. Not only will he have to re-prove that he can be an effective member of a bullpen that will be making a push for the playoffs, but also that the Angels should use a roster spot on a guy whose long-term role with the franchise is unclear.
Personally, I will always remember going to games at RFK Stadium in 2005 with my friends and straightening out the bills of our caps when “The Chief” got in the game to close it out. Cordero pitched with such great passion, and wore every emotion on his sleeve. Regardless of is future, he will always have a place in the Nats record books, as I find it hard to believe that any Washington closer will ever top the 47 save, 1.82 ERA year that Chad posted for the Nats in year one.