By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Washington Nationals closer Chad Cordero will miss four to six weeks -- and might not be back at full strength until the all-star break -- because of a torn muscle in the back of his right shoulder, a development that means nearly all of the Nationals' relievers will be pitching in unfamiliar roles until well into June.
Cordero, 26, has been dealing with tendinitis in the shoulder all season, and already has spent more than two weeks on the disabled list with that problem. The club, though, insists that the new injury -- which Cordero felt when he pitched Tuesday night -- is unrelated to the tendinitis.
"This is a tough injury," General Manager Jim Bowden said yesterday. "It takes a while. . . . Four to six weeks is our best estimate. It's unfortunate, but hopefully, we'll get him good and strong and he'll have a strong second half for us."
Cordero's fastball hovered around 80 mph in some recent outings, but he insisted that his shoulder felt fine and that he merely needed to build up arm strength. But on a pitch to Atlanta's Kelly Johnson on Tuesday night, he tore the latissimus dorsi muscle to the point that he had difficulty sleeping that night, he said. Another MRI exam revealed no structural damage in the shoulder.
"Disappointed," Cordero said. "It [stinks]. But I guess it could be worse. I could've been having surgery. I don't have to do that."
Though Cordero suggested Tuesday night that he might have pulled the muscle because he was overcompensating for the lack of strength in his shoulder, Bowden dismissed that notion.
"I think maybe he was trying to increase velocity, because everybody keeps banging him on velocity," Bowden said. "He might have tried too much and pulled it that way."
Cordero was not placed on the disabled list yesterday because the Nationals are trying to decide who should replace him on the roster. Catcher Paul Lo Duca, on a rehabilitation assignment at Class A Potomac because of a bruised right hand, might be the most likely candidate, but the club wanted to see his performance last night. Though that would leave the Nationals with three catchers, they still would have six relievers, with right-handers Joel Hanrahan and Jesús Colome and left-hander Mike O'Connor capable of going more than one inning in an outing.
Cordero's injury means Jon Rauch, normally the setup man, will continue to pitch as the closer. He has five saves in seven opportunities with a 4.38 ERA this season after leading the majors in appearances the past two years combined. As Bowden said, "Here's Jon Rauch's chance to be a closer in the big leagues."
"Obviously, being the closer now, he's not going to be able to pitch as much," Manager Manny Acta said. "He'll adjust. He does a good job."
Cordero said he didn't know how he'll spend the next two weeks, when he won't be allowed to throw. But he won't be back until his shoulder is fully healed.
"We want to get his arm strength completely back," Bowden said. "That would be our preference."