Francisco Cordova

Francisco Cordova

April 26, 1972
5' 10"
191 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-02-1996 with PIT

Francisco Córdova (born April 26, 1972 in Veracruz, Mexico) is a former Major League Baseball left-handed starting pitcher who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1996-2000 and who is currently playing in the Mexican Triple-A League for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, the Pirates were the first team to tap into the Latin countries for talent and it brought them success and championships.  In the 1990’s they tried once again to go to an area of the globe to try and find the same magic, Mexico.  They were able to bring some decent pitchers such as Ricardo Rincon, Elmer Dessens and their first find, which turned out to be there best, Francisco Cordova.

Cordova came to the club in 1996 after spending 4 seasons with the Mexico City Reds, which the Bucs had a working agreement with, and was 28-4 over his last two seasons in the Mexican League.

He was put in the bullpen after being signed as an undrafted free agent in January of ’96.  Cordova enjoyed some success, saving 12 games in 53 relief appearances, but had a penchant for giving up the long ball as he surrendered 11 homers in 99 innings of work.

Francisco did start 6 games in his rookie season prompting new Pirate boss Gene Lamont to put him in the starting rotation the next year.  Cordova did not disappoint as he won 11 games with a 3.63 ERA that included one of the greatest pitched games in Pirate history, an exciting 3-0, 10 inning victory over the Astros on July 12th, when the Mexican duo of Cordova and Rincon combined on the first extra inning combined no-hitter in major league history.

While the Bucs were in the midst of their improbable 1997 campaign, they had not scored in 19 consecutive innings prior to the game and made it 28 in a row after Francisco completed in 9 inning 121 pitch masterpiece.  He left the game knowing he would get no credit for a complete game no-hitter and a victory, but the team was in the middle of a pennant race and Lamont did what was best for the club and replaced the tiring hurler with Rincon in the 10th.  Rincon mowed down Houston without a hit and Mark Smith came in against the Astros fine reliever John Hudek with two on and two out in the 9th where he proceeded to send a sold out throng of 44,119 delirious fans home happy, giving Pittsburgh a 3-0 win which put them in a tie with Houston for the lead in the NL Central and more importantly gave the duo their place in history.  For his efforts, Cordova was named the NL player of the week, the only Pirate during that special season to be so named.

The Bucs wound up 18-11 in his 29 starts that season, but it was on August 22nd when Cordova would be put on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, unfortunately it was a sign of things to come.

1998 proved to be the marquis season for the Veracruz native as he won a team high 13 games with a 3.31 ERA, good for 10th in the senior circuit.  Finally, Francisco came out of the shadows and established himself as the ace of the Pirate starting rotation.

He would be named the Bucco starting pitcher on opening ay for the second consecutive season in 1999, but this time he was crushed 9-2 by Montreal after pitching 7 shutout innings against the same club the year before.  Things would get worse, lasting only 2 innings in his next outing against the Cubs and was once again pout on the DL with the shoulder inflammation problem that plagued him in ’97.  He came back but was not as effective finishing with an 8-10 mark, gaining over a run on his ERA from the prior season.

If 1999 was a disappointment, 2000 would prove to be a disaster.  After having an impressive first start, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the same Houston club he had his 1997 gem against, Cordova’s arm problems appeared again as he went on the disabled list in May with elbow problems.  He came back long enough to win eight games, but had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in August and was lost for the season. 

During the year when he did play, Cordova was either very good or very bad as he had a 1.77 ERA in games he won and a 7.57 mark in contests he was defeated in.  The total result was a career high 5.21 ERA, which now was almost two runs a game higher than his marquis season of 1998.

The following season proved to be not just troublesome for Cordova, but the hopes and dreams of the franchise as a whole.  The future of the team was supposed to lie in its young starting rotation, but when Cordova, Jason Schmidt and Kris Benson were all felled by arm injuries to start the 2001 campaign, everything went from hope to utter failure.  For the young Mexican it would signal the end of his major league career, at least for now.  Several times he tried to come back from Rehab assignments, some that seemed promising, but in the end, he was just not able to return from the elbow pain that plagued him over the past couple years.

Perhaps there will be a come back in the future, or perhaps not, but in the grand scheme, his career in the show may have been disappointing, but cannot be labeled a failure. Francisco will always have July 12th, 1997, to remind him of his place in history

Career highlights and awards

    * 1 combined no-hitter

Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia

Diablos Rojos del Mexico, Francisco Cordova, Pittsburgh Pirates, The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia
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