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Closer Cordero enjoying smooth spring

Closer Cordero enjoying smooth spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- About one year ago, as closer Francisco Cordero was in the midst of posting a 12.10 Spring Training ERA, Reds fans were stocking up on brown paper bags to hyperventilate.

Mass hysteria subsided and order was restored quickly once Cordero flipped the switch for the regular season. He saved his first 15 games and converted 39 of 43 chances overall. There was one Reds representative to the National League All-Star team and it was Cordero.

"To me, it was my best season," Cordero said. "I had a good year in Texas in 2004 when I saved 49 games. I had a good year in Milwaukee in 2007 and saved 44. Last year, I had 39 but it was my best year because of what happened in the offseason. I lost my mom and had the [ankle] surgery. I was able to do my job and concentrate. I had to deal with a lot of stuff off the field and still had a good year."

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When he was named to the All-Star Game in July, Cordero became emotional because he was still hurting from the sudden death of his mother, Martina, the previous offseason. It's something he still carries with him over a year later.

"You have to learn to live for every day," Cordero said. "It's going to happen sooner or later. I'm thinking about it a lot. When you lose somebody, especially a mom or dad or a son, you never get over it. But at the same time, you've got a job to do. This year is more about my job. I feel healthy and strong."

If not for his being the ringleader of a large group of Latin players who gather and laugh in the middle of the clubhouse, Cordero might be having the quietest of camps among any of the Reds.

That's because Cordero's spring totals have been fairly smooth -- five appearances, five scoreless innings with four hits, two walks and five strikeouts. His next scheduled outing is Sunday vs. the Cubs.

"I'm pain free," Cordero said. "Last year, I had a lot of worries about my ankle after the surgery from the year before. I had to worry about a lot of stuff. This year, I'm just worried about getting ready for Opening Day. I know the fans were a little bit worried at Spring Training last year. Obviously, I wasn't getting anybody out. It's a lot different this spring."

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Typical of Cordero's role, it's a hero-or-goat scenario he faces nightly during the regular season, but most of the time, the 34-year-old only drew attention when he was the goat. If he got the final three outs, as expected, no one blinked an eye.

Cordero bristled at that issue toward the end of last season.

"Last year, I had 29 saves in a row going back to 2008. You blow one and a lot of people get mad," said Cordero, who has two years left and $25 million owed on his four-year contract. "After saves, I'd sit down and no one came to me. I got a little mad at the media when they'd ask why I blew a game or lost a game. They'd want to know why. I lost a game. I'm not perfect. I don't mind talking to the media but I get mad when you keep doing the job every day and no one comes to talk to you. When you blow a game, everybody is right next to you and waiting to talk to you."

Cordero was 2-6 with a 2.16 ERA with 30 walks and 58 strikeouts in his 68 games. Four of his losses came in non-save situations. When he entered with a lead, it was almost as good as closed as he posted a 1.71 ERA with only four blown saves. It was over a run higher in non-save situations at 2.92.

With 250 career saves, Cordero is one of 11 pitchers in Major League history with at least 100 saves in each league. Never one to set a goal for save totals, he has a very basic agenda heading into this season.

"Whether I face a great hitter or a good hitter, I take nothing for granted," Cordero said. "You have to go right at them. One goal is to always try and be ahead of the hitter. When you're ahead of the hitter, you will be better."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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