Salt Lake ballplayers who’ve gone on to success in the major leagues range from hot prospects, to veteran minor leaguers, and former big leaguers. Part 1 described how Ryan Vogelsong and Jerome Williams made it back to the show. Part 2 covered two very different pitchers, Brendan Donnelly and Shane Loux. This final installment previews two potential comebacks that could unfold in Salt Lake during the 2013 season.
Cordero’s story of glory, injury and tragedy has received quite a bit of coverage this spring. Drafted out of California State University Fullerton in 2003, Cordero made his major league debut that year. In 2005, he was selected for the MLB All-Star Team and was on the National League MVP and Cy Young ballots. The 23-year old finished the season with an 3.28 ERA and National League-leading 47 saves.
Then in 2008, he injured his shoulder. After surgery, Cordero spent two years rehabbing in the minors. Finally, in 2010, he made his way onto the Seattle Mariners roster. He logged in just nine games, but by season's end Cordero felt as though things were starting to come together. He was looking forward to a fresh start in 2011. After all, he was only 28 years old.
Then in December, the worst nightmare a parent could have struck the Cordero family. Their 11-week old infant daughter, Tehya, died of Sudden Infant Death syndrome. Cordero looks back now and realizes he didn’t know how to handle the grief. In fact, he believes being forced out of baseball for two years enabled he and wife Jamie to come to terms with their loss.
In January 2012, the Corderos welcomed their second child, a boy named Cooper. Cordero started making steps to come back to life, and perhaps baseball too. He helped coach high school baseball, started losing weight, and eventually called his old conditioning coach, Kazuhiko Tomooka, for some intensive training sessions.
Then, in early 2013, in a scene that reads like a script for a movie of the week, Cordero called his Fullerton baseball coach, Rick Vanderhook, and asked if he could pitch in some team scrimmages. Cordero’s agent, Larry Reynolds, captured the February outing using his cell phone. Reynolds called Jerry DiPoto, GM of the Los Angeles Angels, and brought his cell phone video to their meeting. A couple weeks later, Cordero was an Angel.
Cordero pitched well enough in two appearances during spring training to earn an invite to major league camp. Cordero is a starter, so barring an injury to the Angels’ projected rotation of Jered Weaver, C. J. Wilson, Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas or Tommy Hanson, he’ll most likely start the 2013 season with the Bees.
Ben Fritz was the third best right-handed pitcher in the draft, according the laptop of former assistant GM Paul DePodesta. —Andrew Clark
Right-hander Ben Fritz is another intriguing tale-in-the-making this spring. Fritz was part of the 2002 Oakland A’s “Moneyball” draft that included Joe Blanton, whom the Angels signed this winter. Fritz never made it to the major leagues, and bounced around the minor and independent leagues until 2010, the last season he played professionally.
Fritz was outstanding in 2010, as a starting pitcher for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. Lancaster, incidentally, is the same team Jerome Williams played for in 2011 before coming to Salt Lake. Fritz was selected for the 2010 Atlantic League All-Star Game and finished the season with 3.71 ERA, 23 G, 126.0 IP, 52 BB, 119 SO. His 119 SO set a new club record, and his SO and ERA were ranked third in the league.
The Angels signed Fritz to a minor league deal in February. He pitched an inning on Feb. 25, facing the minimum three batters for 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 HB, 1 SO. According to Angels GM, Jerry DiPoto, Fritz is throwing well, in the low 90s. Getting assigned to the Salt Lake Bees when camp breaks could be just the ticket for another success story.