Former Nationals closer saved 47 games in 2005 All-Star season.

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PEORIA, Ariz. — With no pitcher yet emerging in the Mariners’ closer battle, the club has added a new long-term candidate: Chad Cordero, an All-Star in 2005 when he led the National League with 47 saves.

Since then, however, Cordero has been hit by a major injury, undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum on July 8. Cordero appeared in just six games in 2008, working 4-1/3 innings without recording a save. He had two trips to the disabled list, and his velocity reportedly was down 10 mph from his heyday, in which he saved 113 games from 2005-07.

The Mariners on Thursday signed Cordero to a minor-league contract, as first reported by The Seattle Times. He is expected to be in the Mariners’ major-league camp today.

Because of his injury, Cordero won’t be an instant savior, but the Mariners reportedly view him as a strong candidate to take over the closer job once he is fully healthy.

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It’s a surgery that often takes a year to completely recover from, though Cordero has been throwing for scouts from various teams since February. The Mariners have been monitoring him for the past month with special assistant Duane Shaffer, and are said to be pleased with the progress of his rehab.

“We are going to take it one step at a time, but we are optimistic that Chad can help us this season,” said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. “Chad has been a quality major-league closer and we look forward to his contributions to our ballclub in 2009.”

Cordero became a free agent when the Nationals removed him from their 40-man roster on Oct. 30. Jim Bowden, former GM of the Nats, had said in a radio interview during the summer that the club planned to not tender Cordero a 2009 contract. He earned $6.2 million last year.

Cordero is still young — he turns 27 on March 18 — and has been watched by several teams this spring, including the Rangers, Twins, Mets and even the Nationals. In his best season, 2005, he had a 1.82 earned-run average in 74 appearances, allowing 55 hits in 74-1/3 innings while striking out 61. He has a career 2.78 ERA in 305 games.

The Mariners are looking to replace their former All-Star closer, J.J. Putz, who was traded to the Mets. The candidates are Mark Lowe, Miguel Batista, Tyler Walker, David Aardsma, Roy Corcoran and Randy Messenger. While it’s still early, Lowe has a 9.82 ERA in four Cactus League games, and Corcoran is at 10.80 after giving up four runs in 1/3 of an inning in a 9-1 loss to Texas on Thursday. Batista gave up just one unearned run in two innings to keep his ERA at 4.50.

Aardsma has looked good, not giving up any earned runs in four innings over four appearances. Messenger also has a 0.00 ERA, including 1-2/3 scoreless innings Thursday, but he gave up three hits and manager Don Wakamatsu commented after the game that Messenger appeared to be pitching defensively for the first time this spring.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or

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