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DENVER – The long run from the bullpen at Coors Field sometimes leaves relief pitchers sucking air.
The altitude had nothing to do with Erik Cordier’s quickened breath Wednesday afternoon.
And after a decade-plus in the minors, the big league mound felt so much higher than a mile up.
“I stopped and looked up at everything, tried to take it all in,” Cordier said. “I said, `Wow. This is cool.’ Then I tried to hone in.’”
His first pitch honed over Buster Posey’s head and went to the screen. When you’ve spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, and two more in between rehabbing from injuries, passing through four organizations and converting from starter to reliever, it’s natural to expect a bit of an adrenaline spike the first time you pitch in a major league game.
In front of the remnants of a crowd and amid a 9-2 game, Cordier had a seventh inning he won’t ever forget. He hit 101 mph more than once while pitching around a walk and a hit batter.
His first five fastballs while striking out Drew Stubbs: 100, 100, 101, 101, 100.
“Probably the single most adrenaline I’ve ever had,” said Cordier, who signed a major league contract in the winter as a six-year minor league free agent and had a 3.59 ERA in 47 games at Triple-A Fresno to earn a September callup.
“Pretty intense to say the least. I really wanted to take it all in the first time. I’d like to be a little more consistent but I think that’ll come. Throwing in the minor leagues for over 10 years, it’s a whole new ballgame here.”
For more on Cordier’s story, and his high octane fastball, check out the feature I wrote on him in the spring. He said he’s still trying to harness his fastball, which was easier said than done in his debut.
Well, you saw…” said Cordier, who hit Matt McBride with a 99 mph fastball after the walk. “I really did the absolute cardinal sin. I said, `OK, middle-middle,’ and threw it as hard as I could. It rode away from me. I wanted to finish with a really nice exclamation point.”
Cordier found a way to upstage Hunter Strickland, who averaged 98 mph and hit 100 once in his major league debut two days earlier. But because Strickland has better command and throws a more reliable slider, he’s expected to pitch in leveraged situations this month. Cordier will be more of an innings guy in short bursts.
That’s all right with him.
“Worth every minute of it, every injury, every up and down,” Cordier said of his long apprenticeship. “I think everybody in here would tell you that.”