Chad Cordero

Chad Cordero touches 91 mph in return appearance

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Back on a big-league mound after a nearly two-year absence, Chad Cordero gave up a home run but retired three of the four Mariners he faced in his Angels debut Monday.

Both MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby and USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale had pieces on him and his trials today.

Cordero’s minor league deal, signed earlier this month, didn’t include an invitation to major league camp, but he was brought over to get an inning in today with the Angels’ top hurlers not pitching yet.

“He was like 40 pounds lighter, so I didn’t recognize him,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But once he got on the mound, you could tell it was him.”

Cordero pitched at 89-91 mph today, said GM Jerry DiPoto. That’s actually right where he was before hurting his shoulder in 2008; according to Fangraphs data, his average fastball ranged between 89 and 90 mph every year from 2003-07.

The soon-to-be 31-year-old Cordero isn’t a candidate to make the Angels out of spring training, but he hopes to contribute later on this season.

“This reminds me how much I missed it,” Cordero told Nightengale. “I hated it when I was released. If I have to pitch in A-ball, Double-A to get here, I’ll do it. I’ll be a mop-up guy if I have to. I want to be here because I love this game so much.”

Cordero, a 2003 first-round pick, saved 47 games for the Nationals as a 23-year-old in 2005. He racked up 128 saves in total before turning 26. However, he’s made just 15 appearances since 2008 (six then, nine in 2010) because of shoulder issues. He’s also making his way back from a tragedy after losing his 11-month-old to sudden infant death syndrome in 2010.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.