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After Ordeal, Cordero Looks To Be Focused

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 14, 2007

As long as his red-eye flight from Southern California gets in without a problem, Washington Nationals closer Chad Cordero expects to be in uniform tonight for the opener of a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves, Cordero's first time with the team since he was placed on the bereavement list so he could deal with the impending death of his paternal grandmother.

Josie Cordero died of brain cancer Thursday, the end of a battle that had rattled Cordero to the point where he found it hard to concentrate on baseball. But Cordero said yesterday that he thought he would return more focused.

"Just being here with my family has really helped," he said by phone from Chino, Calif. "It wasn't as hard as we all thought. We had thought it was going to happen a couple of weeks before, so that helped us take it a lot easier."

Cordero, who has blown four of his eight save opportunities, said he had little doubt that his grandmother's illness weighed on him on the field.

"Hopefully, I'll just be able to be more focused," he said.

Jon Rauch filled in during Cordero's absence, saving his only opportunity with a scoreless ninth inning in yesterday's 6-4 victory over Florida.

Speigner Tries a Starting Role

Even with Jerome Williams's activation from the disabled list to make his start Tuesday, with John Patterson on the disabled list and Shawn Hill likely headed there with an elbow injury, the Nationals needed a starter for Wednesday's game against the Braves. So they looked to their bullpen. Rookie Levale Speigner will replace Hill in the rotation for at least two starts, Manager Manny Acta said, an assignment unlike any the 26-year-old has undertaken. "It's exciting they put enough stock in me to think I could handle the situation," Speigner said.

Speigner, who is 1-0 with a 3.77 ERA in 12 appearances as a reliever, said one key will be "just going in not too pumped-up, not playing on emotion." He said he did that in an outing May 5 in Chicago, when he walked three men.

Speigner hasn't thrown more than 48 pitches in a single outing this year. Acta said he hoped to get four or five innings out of him.

Sun, Sun, Go Away

The Nationals might have had an easier time yesterday had a few clouds popped up in the sky. Left fielder Ryan Church lost Dan Uggla's fly ball in the sun to start the sixth inning, turning an out into a double. First baseman Robert Fick also said the sun caused him to drop Aaron Boone's soft floater in foul territory in the same inning. Boone delivered an RBI single. Church tried different sunglasses. "I tried dark, light," he said. "Nothing really helped." . . . Church was among nine Nationals players who used pink bats in support of breast cancer research.

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