Franchy Cordero made a splash for the San Diego Padres earlier this season. In his first career start, on May 28th against the Washington Nationals, he went 2-5 with a double and a run scored. He also made an impact with his glove.
I had a chance to sit down with Franchy before El Paso’s game against Tacoma on Monday night. We did the interview in Spanish, his native language as he hails from Azua, Dominican Republic. I asked him, with all the tools he has, what is his favorite aspect of playing baseball.
“Playing defense,” he said, “I take a lot of pride in my defense. The change I made from shortstop to now in the outfield. I work hard in the outfield. I feel really proud when I make a good play defensively. I’m constantly learning more.”
It certainly showed in his 30 games up with the big league club this season. He posted a +2 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) while playing arguably one of the tougher positions in baseball, centerfield.
He has performed really well in El Paso this season. He has been down with the Triple-A club for about a month since his last call-up. In his last 10 games, he is hitting .372 with two home runs and 11 RBI. I asked him what he’s working on as he battles to get back to the big leagues.
“I am just working on my approach at the plate. I am trying to make more contact. Trying to strike out less and not swing at balls. We are working little by little and I just gotta keep working.”
Strikeouts have been a struggle for Cordero, but he has also walked three times in the last five games. He struck out 44 times in 30 games in San Diego. He understands and is humble enough to know what he needs to work on, and it is showing in El Paso.
His first major league at bat came as a pinch-hit against all-star pitcher (and San Diegan) Stephen Strasburg. He struck out. When I asked him about that experience, he laughed to himself and smiled, mouthing the name “Strasburg” as I finished the question.
With a smile, he said “I was pretty excited. It was a pinch-hit. I really tried to make contact but…(laughs) he got me.”
On a brighter note, his first major league home run came against accomplished pitcher Bronson Arroyo. He lined a shot over the left field wall for a two-run homer, extending San Diego’s lead in that game against the Reds to 6-2. He smiled on that experience and said, “I wasn’t really looking for it. I just wanted to get good contact on the ball. I was pretty excited. It was fun to make that kind of contact, I felt pretty good.” Cordero is a humble guy. He is motivated to get better. Just being 22 years old (will turn 23 in two weeks), he has a good perspective. I asked him what motivates him to play this game.
“My family. My mom, my dad, my sisters. I am trying my best and they are proud that I have made it this far, with where I have been and what I have accomplished. Some are coming this week to see me. It’s fun for them to have me playing in the United States.” Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Cordero had his share of great Dominican players to look up to. Guys like Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, and Vlad Guerrero call the D.R. home. He chose an American player who has Dominican heritage as well.
“Alex Rodriguez. Even though I grew up a Boston Red Sox fan, it was A-Rod.”
Cordero did start his pro career as a shortstop and has similar size (both A-Rod and Cordero are 6’3″) and tools (good glove, footwork, speed).
We talked about the excitement of the fan base with these young players, like himself. The future is bright. He commented on the young core in the Padres’ system.
“We have been doing good work. Some are in the big leagues already and have done good things. Having been between there and here in El Paso, we have been happy with the progress.”
Finally, we talked about favorite foods. We both talked of our love for tostones (fried green plantains). He loves the typical Dominican dish rice, beans, and chicken. When I asked him if he had an American food he liked, that big, shiny grin came out again…
“Hamburgers. Especially late at night.”
Cordero is one of the leading performers on this El Paso team in the playoff hunt. He is hungry for a playoff run, even in Triple-A. He hopes to be in a Padres uniform come September. His humility and laid back personality is a welcome sight in any locker room. Hopefully, in September and beyond, he will be getting a jersey dirty with the word “PADRES” across the chest.
(Listen to the entire interview below, approximately 5 minutes)