M's Cordero returns to majors

SEATTLE -- Just a few years ago, Chad Cordero was the best closer in the National League. At 23, he became the youngest pitcher in baseball history with more than 40 saves in a season.

That was before injuries derailed, and nearly ended his career.

Cordero's long journey back from major shoulder surgery was completed on Thursday when the Seattle Mariners promoted Cordero from Triple-A Tacoma. The right-hander, who missed all of the 2008 season and spent 2009 in the minors rehabbing, takes the roster spot of Ken Griffey Jr., who suddenly retired on Wednesday.

"I've worked hard for two years to get back up here and hopefully I don't ever have to do it again," Cordero said before Thursday's series finale against Minnesota.

Cordero's return to the majors comes two years after a trio of injuries led to surgery and his eventual departure from the Washington Nationals, where he had starred for three seasons. Cordero went on the DL twice during the 2008 season with a torn side muscle, torn labrum and torn biceps. He had season-ending shoulder surgery on July 8, 2008.

The Nationals released him after the 2008 season and only Seattle took a chance on a rehab project that was two years in the making. But Seattle also saw the opportunity in a reliever that led the National League with 47 saves in 2005 for the Nationals and saved 113 games between 2005-07, second most in the National League.

Cordero, 28, struggled during the initial steps of his recovery. Never a power pitcher, what velocity he previously had wasn't coming back. He threw just 14 1/3 innings for a pair of low level teams in the Mariners organization in 2009.

"There were a couple of times last year when I was rehabbing when my velocity wasn't coming back and stuff," Cordero said about his doubts. "I had in my head that I may never pitch again, but I kept battling through it working hard and it paid off."

Cordero made the Triple-A roster coming out of spring training and went 0-1 with six saves and a 4.12 ERA in 17 appearances for Tacoma. He allowed just one earned run in his last six appearances.

Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu hopes Cordero can get into a routine of throwing every other day and add some depth to the Mariners bullpen during a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

"What you're hoping you get out of him is the experience he's had the in the major leagues and the confidence level," Wakamatsu said. "And having more experience down there never hurts."