Cordero to be Nationals' closer
Confident young pitcher ready to challenge hitters
JUPITER, Fla. -- According to a source, right-hander Chad Cordero will be the Nationals' closer for the 2005 season.
A bullpen-by-committee approach had been a possibility, because Cordero, 23, has not had much experience. But Cordero has been aggressive and has challenged hitters all spring. He's pitched in six games and has given up three runs in 8 1/3 innings. Cordero also has struck out nine batters and walked only one.
"I feel like I've pitched a lot better," Cordero said. "I'm throwing fewer pitches per inning. Last year, I threw 20 to 25 pitches an inning; I'm now throwing 10 or less."
Manager Frank Robinson declined to comment on the closer situation Thursday except to say that he will make the announcement on Sunday.
Last year, Cordero started the season as the setup man, but he was given the closer's job on June 8 after right-hander Rocky Biddle had a tough time getting hitters out.
Cordero had mixed results in the closer's role, often getting two quick strikes on a batter, then nibbling around the plate and having a tough time getting him out. Cordero finished the season 7-3 with a 2.94 ERA and 14 saves.
"I wasn't quite confident in my stuff," Cordero said. "I was thinking that if I hung a pitch, they were going to hit it. That's the reason I was nibbling so much. (Pitching coach Randy) St. Claire said, 'Let them hit the ball.' I'm not going to be afraid of the hitters making contact. I have eight guys (on my team) that can go out and make the plays."
This isn't the first time Robinson has given the closer's role to a reliever who's not yet 25 years old. In 1989, Robinson gave 22-year old Gregg Olson a chance. Olson went on to save 27 games and had a 1.69 ERA for the Orioles, winning Rookie of the Year honors that year.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.