Cordero to be in fine company at ASG
Under-the-radar vet reaching level of big-name closers
ST. LOUIS -- Very quietly, Francisco Cordero is back at the All-Star Game.
When he first made the Midsummer Classic with the Rangers in 2004, he was regarded as one of the game's great, emerging young closers, on his way to a career-high 49 saves. Three years later, he was a stopper hitting his prime in Milwaukee, where he flat-out overpowered opponents en route to 44 saves.
Now, it's another city, another All-Star appearance, this time as the Reds' lone representative. And with 21 saves in 22 chances at the break, Cordero has a chance for another 40-save season. But at 34 years old, he's unquestionably one of the game's veteran stoppers, even if he doesn't get the attention for it.
"You can't hide his stuff," Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "He's kind of been under the radar the first half of the season with Cincy, but people definitely know him. It will be good for his career to have the whole country watch him on national TV."Cordero also has the veteran savvy that goes with 232 career saves.
When he signed a four-year, $46 million contract with Cincinnati two years ago, it was an unexpected twist on the market, especially for a team trying to get back among the contenders in the National League Central. While he said an All-Star appearance is one way to back up the commitment, it boils down to doing the job.
Cordero is one of 11 relievers all-time to have notched 100 saves in both the NL and the American League. His return to the All-Star Game not only is his success, but that of the Reds.
"For a reliever to be in the All-Star Game, your team has to be doing good," Cordero said. "If your team's not winning, it's hard -- especially for a closer -- to be in the All-Star Game. You're not going to get as many save opportunities. That's why I say it's been good for me and the team this year. It shows we've been doing a great job as a team, and I'm doing a great job as a closer."
The final piece of what has been a very good Reds bullpen in the first half, Cordero is 1-2 with a 1.75 ERA in his 36 games this season. He had converted a streak of 29 consecutive save chances, including his first 15 this season, until he blew his first one of the year on June 10 at Washington.Not only has Cordero converted his last six save opportunities since, he hasn't allowed a hit in his past six outings. The twist for Cordero this year is the strikeouts -- 30 of them over 36 innings. It would be his first time since 2002 with fewer strikeouts than innings pitched. The flip side, however, is what hitters do when they make contact. His .208 batting average allowed would be his lowest since '02. Cordero knows the difference, because it's something he has tried to do. "Sometimes you're young, and you just get an edge," Cordero said. "You're trying to throw the ball as hard as you can, just blow everybody away with the fastball. Now I'm more mature, I've been pitching more in the big leagues, and it's not about striking out everybody. It's just to get people out. A lot of times, we're trying to strike everybody out and we don't realize we're making more pitches. I'd rather have three ground balls in seven, eight pitches than have three strikeouts in a game." To realize the value of that, Cordero need look no further than down the bench in the NL and AL All-Star bullpens. "We've got [Trevor] Hoffman over here, who's one of the best," Cordero said. "We've got Mariano Rivera on the other side. I mean, you've got the two best closers in the big leagues of all time. You've got them over here. And you see that they've been even better when they get older.
"This year, those two guys I follow the most. You've got to say it, and I'm not afraid to say it: They're the two best closers you ever see in the game, and they take the same approach."
Without the same attention, Cordero is entering the same category.
"Every time I'm at the mound in the ninth inning, or whenever they put me in the game, I'm just trying to do my job," he said. "I'm just trying to get people out and not only prove to people, but prove to the Cincinnati Reds that they didn't make a mistake when they signed me. Let me put it this way: We both got a good deal. I believe they're happy, and I'm happy."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.