- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

VIERA, Fla. — Wil Cordero, the Washington Nationals’ backup first baseman, seemingly has been around forever — 13 seasons, 1,218 games and six teams to be exact.

By appearing in one Nationals game this season, he will become just the second player in franchise history after Lenny Webster to have three separate stints with the club.

“It means that I’m still around. That’s a good thing,” Cordero said. “You stay around and try to do your job wherever you go and try to help your team win ballgames.”

Last season with the Florida Marlins, it looked like Cordero’s long career could be nearing an end. Cordero spent most of the season on the DL and appeared in only 27 games, hitting .197 with a home run and six RBI in 66 at-bats. Cordero had surgery on both knees — a scope on his left knee May 25 to repair his MCL and meniscus and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee June 15.

“One thing that is always a concern is a year after surgery how you react when you come back,” Cordero said. “A lot of hard work — that’s one thing I put on my mind — and sooner or later it’s going to pay off.”

Cordero, 33, is off to a promising start this spring, going 2-for-5 with a double and RBI. He gives the Nationals some much-needed depth behind first baseman Nick Johnson. Johnson’s injuries last season forced manager Frank Robinson to play left fielder Brad Wilkerson at first for 78 games to keep pop in the batting order.

Two years ago, Cordero batted .278 with 16 home runs and 71 RBI in 130 games for the Expos.

“They brought him back because he can help us,” third baseman Vinny Castilla said. “That’s the main thing because he can play and he can hit. That’s why he’s here. Especially against tough lefties, it gives a day off to Nick. You put Cordero in, man, that’s a great player.”

Cordero has played with the Expos twice (1992-95 and 2002-03), Cleveland Indians twice (1999 and 2000-02), Boston Red Sox (1996-97), Chicago White Sox (1998), Pittsburgh Pirates (2000) and Marlins (2004).

Catcher Brian Schneider, who played with Cordero two years ago in Montreal, cited clubhouse leadership as a reason Cordero is back with the club.

“If you want answers and you want to know the truth, you go to him,” Schneider said. “It may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the right thing that he is saying to you. You’ve got to take his advice, take what he is saying and use it because he’s been around the game and knows what he’s talking about.

“That’s why Frank wanted him here. Frank loves the job he does and likes the way he goes about his business. When Frank was looking for a guy, he knew exactly who to dial up on that phone.”

Added backup catcher Gary Bennett: “There’s a couple guys — Vinny Castilla will be the same way, a guy who’s been around a long time. Those two guys in the clubhouse … if something is not right, you’ve got a problem, those are the two guys you go to.”

Cordero signed his first contract with the Expos in 1988 when he was 16. He was in the majors four years later, starting at shortstop for Montreal from 1993 to 1997. In 1994, he was named to the National League All-Star team and earned his first NL Silver Slugger Award, hitting .294 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI.

A career .275 hitter with 122 home runs and 564 RBI, Cordero switched to first base in 2001 with the Indians, with whom he also played in the outfield. In 2003, Cordero became the Expos’ regular first baseman.

As he enters his 14th big league season, Cordero said he has no plans to retire.

“I feel I have a lot of baseball left in me,” Cordero said. “I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and go out and play. That’s the best way to go about it.”

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