GLENDALE -- Kenley Jansen. Brian Wilson. Chris Perez. J.P. Howell. Paco Rodriguez. Jamey Wright. Brandon League. Josh Beckett or Paul Maholm. These are the names that Javy Guerra sees above the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse lockers around him when he reports to work at Camelback Ranch every morning for Spring Training.
That is a lot of relief pitchers that are looking to occupy seats in the Dodgers bullpen on Opening Day and beyond, and many are likely locks for those jobs, tough foes for Guerra as he battles to seize one of those chairs for himself in his 11th campaign in the Dodgers organization.
Only two seasons ago Guerra was the closer for the Dodgers, but some ineffectiveness and a series of injuries derailed his 2012 season and impacted him last year as well. In fact, he accumulated only 51 1/3 and 53 innings pitcher between the majors and the minors in those two campaigns, respectively.
"Last year was a joke, I lost a lot of time", the 28-year old Guerra said Monday after his morning workout, while stating that he was healthy this year. "I think I was my own worst enemy, so more than anything, I just put it behind us", he added, alluding to both injury recovery and some controversy regarding his reaction to being optioned to the minors last spring.
But the past is not what the Texas-native wants to focus on and instead he wants to soldier on and "keep moving forward making good progress" knowing that he wants to "trust myself, trust what I can do, and just stay within myself and have fun."
This focus was on his on mind in January as well. "Just understand the situation you are in, understanding how thankful you should be, and really just prepping for the future", Guerra told True Blue LA's Eric Stephen at the Dodgers Winter Development camp.
The spring Guerra finds himself at a bit of a career crossroad as he is out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers if the Dodgers wanted to try and outright him to the minors. This means that he is likely a target of scouts of other organizations every time he climbs atop the mound in a spring training game, as other teams gauge their interest right-hander in case he is waived.
Guerra won't permit himself to be distracted however. "You realize all the outside influences of course, you get phone calls, you get texts," he said, acknowledging that he is aware of his situation, "but more than anything you realize that you got to get outs. It doesn't matter what happens, doesn't matter where you go, the big leagues is the big leagues, that's where you want to play. The biggest thing is to make sure you get your work in, make sure I handle my business, as long as I take care of what I need to, I think I'll be all right."
The Dodgers are pleased with what they have seen from Guerra this spring so far. "Javy's been good, he's been good all spring", was Don Mattingly's take on Monday. "As [pitching coach] Rick [Honeycutt] said earlier, this is the best we've seen Javy throw the ball; Javy's got good stuff", the Dodger's manager continued.
But Mattingly also acknowledged the fight Guerra is engaged in, "There's a lot of guys fighting for those last couple spots it seems like", and noted that making a pitching staff is sometimes a war of attrition, "depending on what happens health-wise with everybody, you never know what's going to happen."
"We just kind of simplified it a little bit with Honey", Guerra replied when asked if he agreed that he was pitching well, stating that their goal was to "key in on the things that make me good, staying on those points."
And if Guerra is good, then he may indeed occupy a seat in a major-league bullpen, whether that is in Los Angeles or elsewhere.
Javier is actually his middle name, as he was born Luis Javier Guerra, Jr.
Based on the numbers alone, one thing Guerra seems to do is suppress home runs allowed. The major-league sample size for his 0.4 home runs per nine innings pitched (HR/9) is only 102 1/3 innings, but in 477 1/3 minor-league innings his rate is still only 0.5 HR/9.
Guerra tried his hand at blogging about life as a minor league ballplayer during his 2009 season, which he split between Great Lakes and Chattanooga.
He was born on Halloween.
Guerra's contract was renewed for 2014 and he will earn something in the vicinity of the major-league minimum if he makes the big club. Any big club. If he stays on a 25-man roster for the full season, he'll likely become arbitration eligible entering 2015 as a "super-two" player, as he currently has one year and 168 days of major-league service time.
Previous Player Profiles
2013: Looking to bounce back
|2014 projections - Age 28 season|
It is difficult to predict what will happen with Guerra this year, but I'll hazard a guess that he makes the opening day roster as the Dodgers carry more relievers and less starters than usual and place League on the DL. Then he puts up 25 innings with a 4.00 ERA before being part of a midseason trade. What's your guess?