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Javy Guerra began 2012 as the Dodgers' closer. A demotion, an option, and two surgeries later, he enters 2013 fighting for a chance to make the club.
For Dodgers reliever Javy Guerra, the first goal for 2013 is to stay healthy, after a 2012 that saw him have two different surgeries. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in June, then in November had arthroscopic surgery to clean up bursitis in his right shoulder. Those surgeries sandwiched an oblique strain that kept him out for nearly all of September.
"My knee transitioned into my oblique, and I tore my oblique in September as well. That also led to the shoulder. It was a combination of all three," Guerra said. "More than anything, I'm just happy we're passed it, we're at a good point now. Everything is good, looking forward to competition in camp."
That competition in camp is a number of pitchers vying for two spots in the bullpen. Guerra has an option remaining, which could factor into the decision of whether he makes the opening day roster. Guerra was in the midst of a nine-appearance scoreless streak, during which he had 13 strikeouts and four walks in 11... innings, when he was sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque in late August. He was back with the team in September and because the option didn't last 20 days it didn't technically count as being optioned. But it didn't make those 11 days any easier on Guerra.
"At that point, management does what they do. That's their choice, and I fall in line," Guerra said. "Whatever they want to do, I have to fall in line, compete, and play baseball."
Guerra's 2012 began with high hopes, as he returned as closer, but after three blown saves, another loss, and another near loss he was removed from the position in early May. To top that off, he was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Brian McCann of the Braves on Apr. 25. Trying to get out of the way of that liner, Guerra wrenched his knee, which led to his surgery in June.
"I felt like Javy got off track last year, and you don't know why. But it seemed like after he got hit, everything slowly went wrong. He had knee surgery after that, and got through it pretty quick. Then his shoulder was hurting, and you wonder did one thing cause everything?" asked manager Don Mattingly. "It's the problem with little injuries. They can lead into different injuries, and that's what you worry about."
Guerra said he spent most of his offseason rehabbing from surgery, and though he has no restrictions in camp his bullpen sessions have been scheduled thus far with an extra day in between.
"I'm focused on where I'm at physically and where I'm at in my bullpens. I can't worry about competing at that 100% level with everyone next to me," Guerra said. "But I know I'm getting there and that's ultimately what I'm happy about. I know I'm going to be there by the end of this thing, which is really what we're hoping for."
Mattingly likes what he sees from Guerra in the early going as well.
"Javy's stuff is still good. He's another guy that's durable, is capable of multiple innings. There can be a role for Javy on our club," Mattingly said. "We're looking for him to bounce back, then compete."
Though Guerra doesn't want to get optioned to the minors again, he knows it's out of his control.
"I'm focused on what I need to take care of. I know physically I'm there, and mentally I'm getting there," Guerra said. "More than anything, they're going to be the ones making the decision. It's up to me to give them a tough decision to make."
Guerra's 29 saves rank him 22nd on the all-time Dodgers saves list, two behind current assistant pitching coach and former bullpen coach Ken Howell.
Guerra has one year, 137 days of service time, and has one option year remaining. A full year on the major league roster would likely earn Guerra Super Two status and make him arbitration eligible in 2014. The earliest Guerra could become a six-year free agent is after 2017.
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I'm not sure Guerra will make the opening day roster, but he'll definitely pitch for the Dodgers at some point during the season. I'll guess a 3.83 ERA in 40 innings, with 34 strikeouts.
Be sure to guess how you think Guerra will perform for the Dodgers in 2013. Include ERA and whatever else you wish to guess.