- As he walked to the mound at Cheney Stadium, a familiar feeling engulfed Chad Cordero.
His pulse was racing, adrenaline filled his body and the anxiety of a game on the line filled him with intensity.
It had been a long time since he’d felt like that. Then again it had been a long time since he’d been in that situation – almost three years.
It was a save situation. In years past, Cordero reveled in them. But injuries and subsequent surgeries robbed him of precious years in his career.
So Sunday at Cheney Stadium, when he was asked to hold a one-run lead in the ninth inning, it was a milestone of sorts in his recovery.
And he passed it with efficient ease.
Cordero also worked two scoreless inning Friday with three strikeouts.
In both appearances, his fastball reached 89 to 90 mph, and even touched 91 mph Sunday, according to the Cheney Stadium radar gun.
“The velocity felt like it was there. They said it was 91 on a couple of them,” Cordero said. “My arm felt like it used to. Everything is coming back.”
You might be thinking, "89 to 90, with a couple of 91s ... Pffttt. So what?"
Well, that's what Cordero does. In his four full seasons, Cordero totaled 127 saves and posted a 2.83 ERA, and all the while was throwing mostly 89- and 90-m.p.h. fastballs and 80-m.p.h. sliders (along with the occasional changeups). If you just looked at Cordero's stuff, you'd never guess how good he was.
How good was he? I don't know that I know. He didn't strike out an exceptionally large number of hitters. He didn't walk fewer hitters than average, or give up fewer homers than average. There was really nothing exceptional about Cordero, except his ERA ... and according to FanGraphs, his underlying statistics suggest an ERA roughly 4 rather than 3.
Which is to say, maybe he never should have been a closer and he probably won't be a closer again. If he's throwing 90 again and getting the ball where he wants it? There's no reason this former All-Star and Cy Young candidate can't at least be useful again.