NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Cordero Avoids Arbitration, Agrees to a One-Year Deal

Closer Chad Cordero, who won his arbitration case last offseason, agreed to a $6.2 million contract.
Closer Chad Cordero, who won his arbitration case last offseason, agreed to a $6.2 million contract. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chad Cordero knows firsthand the angst an arbitration hearing can bring, so the Washington Nationals closer was both relieved and happy yesterday when he agreed to terms on a one-year, $6.2 million contract that means he'll have a peaceful spring training.

"I just went in and told my agent to do what he could to get it done," Cordero said, speaking of his representative, Larry Reynolds. "I didn't want to go through the whole process. . . . To have to go through all that, it really takes a toll on somebody."

And that comes from a player who won his arbitration case last offseason, when he was awarded $4.15 million; the Nationals offered $3.65 million. Cordero will be eligible for arbitration again after this season and -- unless he signs a long-term deal -- could become a free agent following 2009.

"We didn't hear too much on a multiyear [deal], which is fine with me," Cordero said by phone. "If they want to do it year-by-year, that's perfectly fine. Just to be able to get something done before arbitration, that's the thing that makes me happy."

Since the Nationals arrived in Washington in 2005, only San Diego's Trevor Hoffman has more saves among National Leaguers than Cordero's 113. In the same span, however, Cordero leads NL closers with 20 blown saves (though setup man Scott Linebrink, formerly of San Diego and Milwaukee, had 21). To help make sure he is more consistent after posting a career high 3.36 ERA in 2007 (up from 3.19 in '06 and 1.82 in '05, when he was an all-star), Cordero, an asthmatic who can't run long distances, has vowed to get in better shape.

"I've lost some weight, and that's really what I need to do," Cordero said. "I need to lose some more. I want to come into spring training and be a lot slimmer and try to be able to stay in shape throughout the whole year."

He will fly to Dallas later this month to work out with some of Reynolds's other clients, including outfielder Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels.

The Nationals have just three arbitration-eligible players remaining -- infielder Felipe Lopez and right-handers Jon Rauch and Tim Redding.

Bergmann Prepares

Right-hander Jason Bergmann said yesterday he is approaching this season as if he is fighting for a job despite the fact that last season, when healthy, he was in the Nationals' rotation.

"There's nothing set in stone for me," Bergmann said by phone. "There's nothing to say I'm guaranteed this spot or that spot. Three or four more guys that you and I don't know could come in and just pitch great, so I have to perform."

Bergmann's season didn't end until mid-November, when he finished up a five-outing stint in the Dominican Winter League, where he pitched for the storied Licey Tigers. Bergmann posted a 3.72 ERA and struck out 11 while walking three in 19 1/3 innings.

"It was an interesting opportunity," he said. "I'm not used to guys being so aggressive. But my goal was just to stay sharp, do the work."

Bergmann will appear from 1 to 3 p.m. today and tomorrow at the Health and Fitness Expo at the Washington Convention Center.

Marrero to Move

The Nationals plan to move prospect Chris Marrero from the outfield to first base this year. Marrero, who was named the top prospect in both the low-Class A South Atlantic League and the high-Class A Carolina League, played first in the Nationals' instructional league last fall. . . .

The club agreed to terms with eight players who are not yet eligible for arbitration -- infielder-outfielder Kory Casto, left-handers Ross Detwiler and John Lannan, right-handers Garrett Mock and Chris Schroder, first basemen Josh Whitesell and Matt Whitney and outfielder Lastings Milledge.


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