- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

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VIERA, Fla. — Chad Cordero and his agent met with Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden last night, hoping to strike a deal on a one- or two-year contract and avoid Tuesday’s scheduled arbitration hearing.

The 24-year-old closer and the club submitted competing arbitration offers earlier this month, with Cordero asking for $4.15 million and the Nationals countering at $3.65 million. If the two sides don’t come to an agreement, they will travel to Arizona next week to present their cases to a panel of three judges, who must rule in favor of one side or the other.

Cordero, who earned $525,000 last season while recording 29 saves, was optimistic yesterday afternoon that a deal could be struck and arbitration could be avoided.

“I’m always confident,” he said. “Something can get done at any time. It’d be great if something did, but business is just part of the game.”

The Nationals have offered Cordero a two-year contract, a deal that would result in a lower salary this season but would increase in 2008. He and his agent, Larry Reynolds, weren’t sold on the initial proposal.

“They offered [a multiyear deal],” Cordero said. “It’s just coming up with the right amount.”

The subject of trade rumors this winter, Cordero is one of the few stabilizing pitchers on Washington’s staff. He set a franchise record with 47 saves in 2005 while posting a 1.82 ERA, then followed that up with another solid season in 2006.

Rookie in rotation?

Manager Manny Acta acknowledged at least 12 pitchers will be competing for four open spots in the Nationals’ starting rotation this spring, and he would like to see at least one young player win a job.

Rookie left-hander Matt Chico and right-hander Beltran Perez are the most likely candidates to make the Opening Day rotation. Acta said he wouldn’t be afraid to hand the ball to either despite their lack of experience.

Chico, acquired in last summer’s Livan Hernandez trade, has never pitched above Class AA. Perez made eight appearances with the Nationals in September after getting promoted straight from Class AA Harrisburg.

“I would prefer to develop at least one young guy,” Acta said. “At least one young guy this year, so for next year he’ll be ready. … It all depends on the makeup of the individual, if he can take it or not, having an 8-15 record. We’ll see who can handle that.”

Kearns arrives

Right fielder Austin Kearns became the latest position player to report to camp early. Kearns, who two weeks ago signed a three-year, $16.5 million extension, joins third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, outfielders Ryan Church, Chris Snelling, Kory Casto and Wayne Lydon, first baseman Larry Broadway and infielder Josh Wilson as early arrivals.

All position players must report by Sunday.



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