- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO | Has Chad Cordero thrown his last pitch for the Washington Nationals?

It’s a possibility, though hardly a certainty, after general manager Jim Bowden revealed the club’s intention not to tender the injured closer a contract this winter.

That revelation, made by Bowden on AM-980 Wednesday and confirmed Thursday before the Nationals’ game against the San Francisco Giants, underscores the uncertainty about Cordero’s eventual recovery from major shoulder surgery. The 26-year-old right-hander made six appearances this season and earlier this month had surgery to repair a torn labrum, a procedure that typically requires 12 to 18 months of recuperation.

Cordero might not be ready to start 2009 on time and might not recapture his old form at all next season. Which explains in part why the Nationals plan not to tender him a contract and will attempt to renegotiate with him as a free agent.

Cordero, who earns $6.2 million this season, is eligible for arbitration once more. Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates that no player may make less than 80 percent of his previous season’s salary through arbitration. So Washington would have to offer Cordero at least $4.96 million for 2009.

“We have told his agent, Larry Reynolds, that we are not going to do that, based on the surgery he had,” Bowden said. “His agent acknowledged that no team in baseball would do that. He certainly understands.”

Nontendering Cordero before the Dec. 12 deadline would make him a free agent, but the Nationals still intend to attempt to re-sign him.

“We explained to Larry Reynolds very clearly that we have interest in keeping Chad here at a very low base salary with incentives to protect us from his shoulder,” Bowden said. “But certainly we want him here.”

Bowden’s public revelation of the news caught the Cordero camp off guard. That group must now decide whether it wants to renegotiate with the organization that selected the reliever in the first round of the 2003 draft.

“The timing of discussing nontendering Chad Cordero is surprising, particularly at this time of the year, but that is the Nationals’ prerogative,” Reynolds said in an e-mail. “We expect Chad to be fully recovered, and if the Nationals decide to nontender him come December we will react accordingly. Chad’s a proven closer, he is working hard to get back on the mound and I am not concerned regardless of what the Nationals decide to do.”

Milledge returns, Estrada cut

Center fielder Lastings Milledge, out since June 28 with a strained groin, will be activated off the 15-day disabled list and return to in the lineup Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Milledge went 2-for-17 with a homer and three RBI during a rehab stint with Class AAA Columbus and the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals, but his injury has healed.

To make room on the roster for their young outfielder, Washington designated catcher Johnny Estrada for assignment. The 32-year-old missed 69 games over two DL stints battling right elbow problems, ending up with nine hits and four RBI in 53 at-bats.

The Nationals have 10 days to either trade or release Estrada, whom another club may claim off waivers. The veteran, who signed for $1.25 million in January, suggested he’s likely to take the rest of the season off to get his elbow back to 100 percent.

“I’m spent,” he said. “I’m ready to just go home, work hard in the offseason and see what happens next year.”

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