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Ex-star takes a shaky step in comeback

PEORIA, Ariz. — Chad Cordero got nervous every time he pitched in the majors. When he first faced Sammy Sosa a decade ago as a precocious rookie reliever for the Expos, he had to step off the rubber to stop his legs from shaking.

The butterflies reconvened in his stomach when he stepped onto a Cactus League mound Monday in a red Angels uniform — and promptly gave up a homer to the first major-league batter he had faced in two years.

Seattle's Brendan Ryan's trot around the bases still couldn't ruin the moment for Cordero, a former Nationals closer who's trying to restart his once-promising career.

"I know everything is going to come back," Cordero said. "My arm felt great, like I had good action on it. Just getting that first one out of the way and realizing that I can do it again, that's what means the most to me. I'm not even worried about results right now. I'm just so grateful to be out there and pitching again."

After barely throwing in the past half-decade while he dealt with serious arm injuries and his infant daughter's death, Cordero's comeback continued with one inning against Seattle. He fought off the knots in his stomach and got three comfortable outs after the homer, encouraging the Angels officials wondering whether the former All-Star who has appeared in 15 major-league games since 2007 can make one of their minor-league rosters.

"He's an interesting guy," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "The life on his ball was terrific, and I think that's the first step. The ball was coming out well, and he has good command when he's on."

Cordero led the majors in saves in 2005 as the Nationals' pugnacious young closer, but he's dressing in the minor-leaguers' locker room at the Angels' spring training complex in Tempe, Ariz., several fields away from the lockers occupied by Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver and Josh Hamilton.

The humbling surroundings are just fine with Cordero, whose weight loss is the most visible sign of his renewed commitment. The former Cal State Fullerton star is down about 50 pounds from his heaviest playing days.

"When I came into minor-league camp for the first day and put on the pants and the jersey again, I realized just how much baseball means to me," said Cordero, who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif. "Hopefully I can keep playing this for a little while longer. I'm still young. I'm not 31 until this March. I missed it so much. Even though I was away for two years, I still kept track of all the games, still went to Angel games with my family.

"Some guys, when they step away, they don't even watch games anymore. But for me, it helped me want to get back and want to play again."

MANNY TO TAIWAN: Former All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez has a verbal agreement to sign with the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional League, reported. The deal will become official only if Ramirez is unable to land a major-league job before March 7.

ANGELS: First baseman Albert Pujols is nearly ready to start running on the field in his deliberate recovery from offseason right knee surgery. Pujols is taking batting practice and running on a treadmill at spring training, and he participated in fielding drills Tuesday. He's not expected to play in a game until mid March.

BREWERS: MillerCoors and the team, whose relationship goes back to the 1950s, announced the renewal of an agreement that maintains Miller Lite as the exclusive beer sponsor. Financial terms and duration of the agreement were not disclosed.

INDIANS: Outfielder Michael Brantley had a protective wrap on his left forearm, where he got 15 stitches after he was accidentally spiked by A's third baseman Josh Donaldson on Monday. He said he has no timetable for returning to the lineup. … New manager Terry Francona named right-hander Justin Masterson his opening day starter.

MARLINS: Former Rays first baseman and Seminole High standout Casey Kotchman hit a grand slam in his first at-bat of spring training. Kotchman had been sidelined for a week after he ran into a pop-up machine during drills and needed four stitches to close a cut on his left ring finger.

ROYALS: Former Rays right-hander Wade Davis, the first rotation pitcher used this spring by manager Ned Yost, gave up one single over two innings.

Ex-star takes a shaky step in comeback 02/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:57pm]
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