By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz. — In contrast to his nervous struggle in an intrasquad game early this week, Chad Cordero kept his emotions under control Friday in his first major league exhibition game in two years.
Pitching the ninth inning, he gave up a leadoff single but got the next three outs. Then he walked toward the dugout and covered his face with his glove.
“I had to hide my smile when I came off the mound,” he said after the Mariners 9-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. “I couldn’t hold it in. It felt so good to be able to be on the mound again after two hard years. I never knew if I’d be able to pitch again.”
Cordero had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in July, 2008, and has fought through a lot of pain and, yes, self doubts, to get this far. He finished last season with the Class A Everett AquaSox, going 0-2 with an 11.74 ERA.
Tuesday, Cordero battled his fastball control in an intrasquad game, saying he had gotten too antsy. Friday, he stayed calm and pitched well.
“To have that first intrasquad game under my belt and get all the emotions out, that kind of allowed me to go out there today and just pitch,” he said. “I was able to go through my routine. On Tuesday I was so wired up I got away from that. Today, I was so much more relaxed out there.
“It’s a huge relief. The whole game I was nervous. But once I threw that first strike, it was like, ‘OK.’ I didn’t worry about anything. I can’t wait for the next time. I wish I was pitching tomorrow. Having two years off and going through the rehab, it wasn’t a fun thing. I want to enjoy this as long as I can.”
It looked a lot like 1989 again around Ken Griffey Jr.’s locker.
Griffey’s family is in town and Trey Griffey, Junior’s 16-year-old son, suited up and spent some time on the field during batting practice. At one point, Trey brought back memories of two decades ago when he stood in center field and shagged flies, wearing No. 24.
While the resemblance to his dad was striking, Trey Griffey — who is now taller than Junior — said he had grown five inches since last spring training. The Kid’s kid also showed he’s strong, wrapping his arms around his dad and lifting him off the floor. Junior smiled and gave his son a kiss.
A short time later, someone asked who’s the most impressive Griffey these days, and Trey quietly thumped his chest and said, “Me.”
His dad beamed.
“My dad had a t-shirt once that said, ‘I don’t take the credit. I just take the responsibility,’ ” Ken Griffey Jr. said.
Today in camp
The Mariners face the Padres in the third of four straight games against their camp co-inhabitant, at 12:05 p.m. (PST) in Peoria (on ESPN 710 radio). Right-hander Ian Snell will make his first spring start and is scheduled to pitch two innings. Also on the Mariners’ pitching list are right-handers Sean White and Yusmeiro Petit. Right-hander Jon Garland is scheduled to start for the Padres.
Griffey swiped Eric Byrnes’ No. 1 jersey and carried it into Wakamatsu’s office, saying, “If (Yankees manager) Joe Girardi can get 28 because they’re going for 28 championships, then I can put No. 1 in Skip’s locker.” … Minor league infielder Kyle Seager was one of the hitters who Cliff Lee hit with a pitch in a simulated game, and after the game Seager was proudly showing the bruise on his right arm to another minor league teammate. … Before he changed into his workout gear Friday morning, reliever Mark Lowe carefully opened mail sent to him by fans. Most of it was letters containing baseball cards. Lowe not only autographed all the cards and placed them in the self-addressed stamped envelopes, he read every word of every letter that accompanied those cards. … Sixteen years ago Friday, Lee Tinsley hit for the cycle in a spring training game against the Padres. Tinsley, now the Mariners’ first base coach, went 4-for-5 in that game with five RBI. “I remember my last at-bat, I hit a ball into the corner and I was thinking triple. Then I looked up and everybody in the dugout was yelling at me to stop at second.” Tinsley said it was the only cycle of his pro career, “although I went 7-for-8 in a Triple-A game.” … After Luke French pitched two strong innings and the Mariners gave him a 2-0 lead, left-hander Garrett Olson struggled to find the strike zone and was torched in his first exhibition outing. Olson, among the four pitchers trying to win the fifth starter’s job, gave up three hits, four walks and six earned runs before Wakamatsu lifted him with two outs in the third inning. The Padres scored eight runs in the inning. … Lowe pitched a dazzling inning, with two strikeouts, and Steven Shell worked two scoreless innings. Josh Fields allowed a hit, a walk and a run in his inning and Kanekoa Texeira allowed one hit in a scoreless inning.