Francisco Cordero hasn’t made a very good first impression in Houston

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Francisco Cordero went from Toronto to Houston as part of last week’s 10-player swap and the Astros, having traded closer Brett Myers and setup man Brandon Lyon, installed Cordero as their new closer.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, it hasn’t worked out very well.

Cordero was terrible for the Blue Jays, throwing 34 innings with a 5.77 ERA and .340 opponents’ batting average, and he’s blown saves (and taken losses) in two of his first three appearances for the Astros.

Tuesday against the Reds he came into the game with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning and went fly out, single, homer, ground out, walk, wild pitch, walk, single. By the time manager Brad Mills removed Cordero from the game it was a 4-2 deficit.

Last night, also against the Reds, he came into the game with a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning and went double, strikeout, walk, strikeout, double. Mills again removed him from the game before the inning was over, this time with a 4-3 deficit.

So though three games Cordero is 0-2 with two blown saves and a 23.14 ERA while allowing opponents to hit .417 with a 1.367 OPS. And the Astros, who have an MLB-worst 34 wins all season, have let a washed-up 37-year-old closer turn back-to-back ninth-inning leads into back-to-back losses.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.