Savvy vet Cordero solidifies Jays' bullpen

Relief pitcher Francisco Cordero.(REUTERS/Sarah Conard)

Relief pitcher Francisco Cordero.(REUTERS/Sarah Conard)

BOB ELLIOT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:50 PM ET

Francisco Cordero, the Blue Jays’ newest reliever, spoke eloquently about the closer’s role, the new bullpen he’s joining and former Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

“He’s one of the nicest guys, a hard worker and plays hard every day,” Cordero told reporters Wednesday.

Asked if he’d make time to visit Votto’s statue, Cordero answered: “I will go, find a statue of Joey, get a picture taken with me in it and send it to him.”

Of course there isn’t a statue of the Etobicoke first baseman.

Not yet.

Yet check back in a few years, especially if the Reds make the former National League MVP winner and his $17 million US contract for next season available at the end of the season and the Jays acquire the home town hero.

Cordero arrives in Dunedin later this month with 327 career saves — more than any other reliever has ever brought into a Jays camp. The previous save high was Randy Myers’ total of 319 entering 1988. Tom Henke had 186 going into 1992.

Yet, Cordero says there will not be a closer controversy in Dunedin.

At least the forecast was clear as Cordero said from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic: “I will be the set-up guy, I’ve been that before, I have to treat the eighth inning like the ninth and get us to (Sergio) Santos.”

Cordero will set up for Santos, holder of 31 career saves.

What’s next, Anthony Gose, who will open at triple-A Las Vegas, hitting third opening day instead of Jose Bautista?

We think not.

Cordero saved 37 of 43 chances (86%) for the Reds and says he was offered his old closer’s position this season.

However, when the Philadelphia Phillies could not reach an agreement with Ryan Madsen and signed Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Paplebon, Madsen turned down multi-year offers to accept a one-year, $8.25 million deal as the Reds’ closer.

The Jays will pay Cordero $4.5 million on a one-year deal.

“I thought the market would be a little better,” Cordero said. “My agent spoke with a lot of teams, like Cincinnati and some others. I’ll pitch for one year and who knows? And who knows what will take place during the course of the season?”

With Jason Frasor and Santos, both acquired from the Chicago White Sox, plus free agents Darren Oliver and Cordero, to go with holdovers Casey Janssen, Carlos Villaneuva, the Jays have improved on a shaky area.

“I know they led the majors last year with 25 blown saves, know they had some trouble last year,” Cordero said. “I saw Santos when he was with Chicago, pitched with Villenauva in Milwaukee and saw Oliver in Texas.”

Cordero was also a teammate with Edwin Encarnacion with the Reds. Both Encarnacion and Villenauva “told me that the city is nice.”

Cordero leaves one hitter’s park, the Great American Ball Park, for another, the Rogers Centre. He’s never had a home park which classified as pitcher friendly.

“I broke in at old TIger Stadium, moved to Texas, a hitter’s park, then Milwaukee’s Miller Park, a hitter’s park and then Cincinnati,” Cordero said. “It doesn’t matter. If you are pitching in San Diego or Oakland (pitcher’s parks), if you don’t make your pitch you can still give up a home run.”

After being a two-pitch closer (fastball, slider), Cordero added a curve and a sinker last season.

“My strikeout totals went down, my ground balls totals went up,” Cordero said. “I’m not a young guy throwing 98 mph any more. I’m not worried about strikeouts. As a ground ball pitcher you save yourself pitches and be available to work on back-to-back days more often.

“I can still get to 94-95 at age 36, it’s not all about strikeouts. When I need a strikeout I can go for a strikeout.”


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