Longtime closer Francisco Cordero “more than happy” to be setup man for Blue Jays

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Francisco Cordero saved 37 games with a 2.45 ERA for the Reds last season, but then found himself in perhaps the biggest buyer’s market for veteran relievers in the history of free agency this offseason and ended up settling for a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Blue Jays.

Oh, and he’ll be a setup man in Toronto too. And the 37-year-old three-time All-Star with 327 career saves said yesterday that he’s just fine with the new role:

They explained to me what my role is going to be, I agreed to it, and I’ll be more than happy to do it. I will be the setup guy, I’ve been that before. I have to treat the eighth inning like the ninth and get us to Santos.

“Santos” is Sergio Santos, who was acquired from the White Sox and handed closing duties months before Cordero fell into the Blue Jays’ lap. Santos has fewer career saves than Cordero had in 2011 alone, but he’ll enter the season with ninth-inning duties. Of course, that doesn’t mean Cordero won’t be looming in the background to take over the gig should Santos falter.

As for the reliever logjam that led to Cordero settling for a modest one-year deal and no closing job, he explained:

I thought the market would be a little better. 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?

It’s also worth noting that several reports had Cordero turning down a two-year, $14 million offer to return to the Reds early on this offseason, in which case he had an opportunity to escape the buyer’s market with a nice multi-year commitment and overplayed his hand.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉