- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

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Chad Cordero enters this season two years removed from leading Major League Baseball in saves. His saves total dropped from 47 to 29 last season because he had fewer opportunities, yet “The Chief” still went 7-4 with a 3.19 ERA in 68 appearances.

The closer last month was rewarded for his performance with a huge victory in arbitration, getting a raise to $4.15 million from $525,000. Cordero talked with the Times’ Ken Wright last week.

Q: Your saves dropped to 29 last season from a franchise-best 47 saves the year before. When you add the two seasons together, that’s 76 saves and that’s a lot. So, what are you looking for this season?

A: I’m looking forward to just go out there and have a good season and just try and do whatever I can to help out this bullpen and help out the team. I’m not worried about not getting as many saves. Last year, I didn’t get as many as the year before, and this year I might get even less. So, I’m just going to go out there and pitch the way I can and not worry about save opportunities and go out there and pitch in whatever situation they want me in. You know, whether I come in the eighth inning or the ninth inning. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll go out there and do. So, that’s all I’m worried about.

Q: What did you do this offseason? Anything fun?

A: I went on a cruise. It was a two-day cruise, and I took a bunch of my buddies on one of my buddies’ birthday. Four of us went down on a two-day cruise down to Mexico. So, that was pretty fun. Then, I went to D.C. to kind of finish up my apartment and get all that situated. Then, I took my girlfriend to Disneyland like twice a week.

Q: Where in D.C. do you live?

A: I live in Arlington.

Q: In California, you live with like six roomates. Is that like the movie “Animal House”?

A: It used to be, yeah, but we’ve all kind of calmed down a lot. Kind of getting our lives together. It’s still fun. We go out there and we have a fire pit in my backyard, so we do bonfires. We basically just get everybody together and just kind of hang out and kind of reminisce on our old college days and all that kind of stuff. We have calmed down, but it’s still a lot of fun living with all those guys.

Q: Are you roommates all guys that you played baseball with at Cal State-Fullerton?

A: Yep. It’s three guys I played with at Fullerton, myself, my brother, and then this girl Emmy who plays on the soccer team down at Fullerton. She’s dating one of my buddies. She’s like a sister to us, though. She needed a place to stay so we offered her the room.

Q: Is this some sort of palatial mansion? How many square feet is this house?

A: No, it’s just your normal house. Maybe it’s about 1,500 square feet. It’s a very modest house. It’s a quiet neighborhood. It’s real nice. It does kind of get cramped up a little bit, but we really don’t care because it’s a lot of fun just being around everybody.

Q: When you were a kid playing baseball, did you think you would ever make it to this level?

A: Not really. It was always a dream of mine to do it, but I never thought it would actually happen. I never understood the process when I was growing up how you did it until I got called by my college coach to try and get me to come over there. That’s when I first realized how the process went, but I never really thought I would be up here.

Q: When did you start developing your pitches? How old were you?

A: Probably when I was in high school. Probably about 15 or 16. When I was in Little League, all I did was throw fastballs . I never threw any curveballs or changeups. In PONY League, I threw a fastball and a knuckleball, and that was it.

My dad never let me throw a curveball or a changeup. He didn’t want to me to hurt my arm. Once I got to high school, in my freshman year, is when I really started trying to figure out how to actually pitch instead of just going out and throwing the ball. I learned how to throw a curveball when I was 15 or 16 and that really helped. I learned how to throw a changeup.

Q: Would you consider yourself a late bloomer?

A: I think so, yeah. I got better in college. In high school I was good, but I wasn’t real good and one of the top guys in California or in the country. I was a pretty average baseball player then. Once I got to college and once I got the coaching I needed is really when I started to figure everything out.

Q: Did you play youth league sports other than baseball?

A: I played basketball for two years. I played basketball in junior high. Soccer I played all the way up until I was 14 until I got to high school.

Q: Were you a good basketball player?

A: I was all right. I kind of just stood there.

Q: Were you a shooter? Could you shoot the ball?

A: I was all right. I wasn’t too bad. I was the same size as I am right now as I was in junior high. I was kind of tall for my age and then I just stopped.

Q: How do you like living in California?

A: I love it. For me, it’s perfect. I’ve got all my family there. Just a few minutes away from me, I’ve got my grandparents, everybody, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins. Everybody lives in the same city except for me, and I’m still like 15 minutes away, so I love it. Plus, you got the mountains about a half-hour away, you’ve got the beach about half-hour away. You’ve got everything you need. Everything you need is right there. Yeah, it can get kind of hot. It’s kind of expensive out there, but I love it.

Q: What are your impressions of this season’s bullpen? People are saying its the strongest part of the team.

A: I think it will be. The last two years we’ve been strong. Last year, we had some problems but we still went out there and did our jobs. Two years ago, I mean we were one of the best in the league. I think we can go out there and do the same thing. Jon Rauch had a great year the first year in the bullpen. Getting [Luis] Ayala back is even going to help us even more. So, I think it will be even better this year.

Q: Is your girlfriend talking marriage to you?

A: [Laughter] No, not yet.

Q: If you did that, do you think that house with all those roommates is over?

A: We haven’t talked about that yet.

Q: How long have you been dating her?

A: About seven months now. I’ve known her for six years. I met her at school [Cal State-Fullerton]. She was a gymnast over at Fullerton. That’s how I met her.

Q: What’s been your greatest baseball moment?

A: It was probably making the All-Star team. Being able to go out there and meet all the guys that I grew up watching and being in the same locker room and clubhouse as them. I never thought it would be possible. When I shook everybody’s hand for the first time and actually met them, it was great.

Q: What do you remember about that first year in Washington?

A: Just the excitement about baseball returning there. Everybody was really excited about it, the fans are great. We did well. We may have stumbled the last part of the season, but we played well the whole year. And, just being a part of it was great. Seeing all the reaction from the fans was awesome.

Q: Well, that team was in first place that year longer than any team in the division. Did you guys expect that?

A: That’s something nobody thought would happen, Suddenly, it did and we were all kind of shocked. We knew we were able to it, but we never thought it would happen that quick.

Q: Do think this year’s team is in the same boat? Everybody keeps saying this team is going to lose 100 games.

A: This year we just have to go out there and play. Nobody really knows exactly what we’re going to do and everybody has already counted us out. But, we feel that we can go out there and compete. We have a lot of good players that are on this team. Our hitters can be good, our pitching, once we get used to it and once we figure out who it’s going to be, I think we’ll be all right. It’s almost the same situation. We just have to go out there and play hard and do the best you can.

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