Javy Guerra was one of four pitchers last year to excel for the Dodgers after starting the season in Double A Chattanooga, and at 25 was the elder statesman of the group.
He made his major league debut on May 15, and nine days later picked up his first save. By early July, Guerra became the full-time closer, helping to provide stability to a bullpen that had already lost Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Vicente Padilla to injury, ineffectiveness, or both.
Guerra put his name on the map on July 8 when, with a 1-0 lead against the Padres he allowed a double then hit two batters to open the ninth inning. With the bases loaded and nobody out, San Diego seemed sure to tie the game, but Guerra struck out the next two batters then induced a short pop out to center field to end the game and preserve the win.
That started a string of 12 consecutive appearances for Guerra without allowing a run and he completed 21 of his first 22 save opportunities until Ryan Roberts tattooed a pitch for a grand slam in Guerra's final outing of the season.
Guerra was joined in the back end of the bullpen by Kenley Jansen, who was otherworldly, especially in the second half, and figures to challenge Guerra for the closer's role throughout the year.
"Javy, to me, didn't do anything last year to say he shouldn't be that guy," manager Don Mattingly said on on the first day of camp this spring. "More than anything, Kenley was saying 'Hey I can do that too' by the way he pitched. It's a good problem for us to have."
Guerra, who was drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round in 2004, did say that he takes pride in closing games, but he wasn't worried about the closer competition between himself and Jansen.
"I don't worry about that stuff. Overall I think we have tons of arms in here, and my goal is to just throw strikes," said Guerra, who walked at least six batters per nine innings in the minors for four of the five previous seasons before walking 2.65 per nine in Double A and 3.47 batters per nine innings in the majors last season.
At the request of Dodgers management, Guerra skipped winter ball this offseason for the first time in his career.
Guerra is tied for second-most saves by a Dodgers rookie with Yhency Brazoban (2005), behind only the 24 saves by Takashi Saito in 2006.
Guerra is on Twitter at @JavyGuerra54.
Guerra will make $488,000 in 2012. He has 137 days of service time, and one option year remaining.
Previous Player Profiles
|2009 (Low A - Great Lakes)
|2009 (Double A - Chattanooga)||23||28.1||5.08||9.21||4.13||3.76|
|2010 (Double A - Chattanooga)
|2012 Projections - Age 26 Season|
I think Guerra does well enough to hold onto the closer's role all year, putting up a 3.25 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 61 innings, with 36 saves.
What is your prediction? Be sure to guess Guerra's ERA, saves, number of innings pitched, plus anything else you would like to predict.