Nationals Notebook

For Cordero, Non-Tender Talk Hits a Nerve

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 25, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, July 24 -- Facing an uncertain, prolonged recovery attempt from right shoulder surgery, Chad Cordero at least has a clearer picture of his offseason. It will involve free agency, and just as certain, a significantly reduced salary. The Washington Nationals' intention to non-tender Cordero in the offseason, revealed by General Manager Jim Bowden, didn't alarm Cordero. But the timing of it did.

"Right now," Cordero said, "I'm just upset at how it's been handled."

Both Cordero and his agent, Larry Reynolds, expressed surprise Thursday about the handling of the announcement, which comes months before the Dec. 12 non-tender deadline and just two weeks after Cordero's surgery.

Bowden initially commented on the decision during an interview Wednesday on WTEM (980 AM). At that time, neither Cordero nor Reynolds had spoken with Bowden.

Cordero, making $6.2 million this season, would have been arbitration-eligible if the team had tendered his contract this upcoming offseason. That would have qualified the Nationals' longtime closer for a contract no less than 80 percent of his 2008 salary. But the Nationals are unwilling to pay $4.96 million to a pitcher whose form next season remains in doubt.

On July 8, Cordero had surgery to repair a torn labrum. Recovery from such a procedure sometimes takes more than a season, but Cordero said Thursday that he intends to be ready by spring training, no matter what team he's playing for.

"We explained to Larry Reynolds very clearly that we have interest in keeping Chad here at a very low base salary with incentives to protect us from his shoulder," Bowden said. "But certainly we want him here. So that's what's taken place. That's our position. I've been very clear about that."

Cordero was most upset about how he received word of the decision. A friend of Cordero's father heard the radio interview. Several phone conversations later, Cordero got word from his dad.

"That's how I found out," Cordero said. "Bowden never once made contact with myself or my agent before he announced it on the radio. I knew this was probably going to happen. For me, that's not the issue. The issue is how it went down. Five months away [from the non-tender deadline], only two weeks after I had surgery, that's what made this upsetting. It makes me kind of sad in a way. It's a little disrespectful."

In an e-mailed statement about the news, Reynolds wrote: "The timing of discussing non-tendering Chad Cordero is surprising, particularly at this time of year, but that is the Nationals' prerogative. We expect Chad to be fully recovered and if the Nationals decide to non-tender him come December we will react accordingly."

Estrada Is Let Go

After Thursday's game, the Nationals designated catcher Johnny Estrada for assignment, a decision that will terminate Estrada's disappointing, injury-filled year with the team. The Nationals have 10 days to either trade or release Estrada, signed this offseason to a one-year, $1.25 million deal.

By designating Estrada for assignment -- the catcher said he wouldn't report to Class AAA, even if he clears waivers -- the Nationals created roster space for Lastings Milledge. The center fielder, who missed the last 20 games recovering from a groin injury, will rejoin the club for tonight's game in Los Angeles.

Estrada, meanwhile, indicated a preference to go home for the rest of the season. Since coming off the disabled list on July 18, Estrada started three games, including Thursday's. This week, Washington had been carrying four catchers on the roster. The one with a .170 average in 53 at-bats was most dispensable.

"It's been a grind for me all season," Estrada said. "I've been hurt. This is the first time I had surgery this past offseason. My arm never felt right the whole year; it still doesn't really feel right. A couple months left in the season, and I'm spent. It's been a long time coming back from rehab, and I'm ready just to go home. Work hard in the offseason and see what happens next year. Obviously they can trade me, do whatever they want with me, but mentally that's where I'm at right now."

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