Writing about Joe Panik this morning brought another San Francisco Giants rookie to mind: relief pitcher Erik Cordier, who hit 101 MPH in his major league debut last night against the Colorado Rockies.
OK, so the heck is Erik Cordier? Here's the answer.
Cordier was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals back in 2004, a second-round choice from high school in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. He had control problems in rookie ball, then promptly injured his knee and missed all of the 2005 season after surgery. He came back for seven effective starts in Low-A in 2006, then blew out his elbow and missed all of 2007 with Tommy John surgery. The Royals saw fit to trade him to the Atlanta Braves for Tony Pena.
Cordier finally got healthy in '08 and began a long tenure in the Braves farm system, pitching well at times but struggling with mechanical consistency and command, pitching poorly as a starter in Triple-A. This was interesting because his reputation in high school was different: he threw in the low 90s and his slider and change-up were considered advanced for a cold-weather prep. His velocity had kicked up into the mid-to-upper-90s before his elbow blew out, but his secondary pitches went backwards. Missing almost three years of development work had clearly been a detriment to his pitchability.
He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent for 2013 and was finally moved to the bullpen; I don't know why it took so long for someone to try that. He posted a 4.58 ERA but with a 65/28 K/BB in 53 innings in Triple-A, not great, but it was enough to attract the Giants, who picked him up over the winter. This year he ran up a 3.59 ERA with a 68/31 K/BB in 53 innings, similar to what he did last year despite the cut in ERA; his FIP was actually higher this year (4.04 vs. 3.19).
Cordier's command is still troublesome, but you can see why teams didn't want to give up on him. His arm strength is legit and he's made progress restoring the slider to what it was before the injuries. Erratic command will confine him to a middle relief role, but he deserves credit for working his way to the major leagues.
The only useable video I can find is from three years ago in the Arizona Fall League, but it gives you the general idea.