Javy Guerra will drive to Camelback Ranch on Monday, as he has every morning since reporting to camp, but instead of joining the Dodgers he will report to Team Mexico, training on the minor league fields this week. Guerra was added on Sunday to Mexico's roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
"It's something I always wanted to do, but unfortunately with the shoulder thing I wanted to make sure my first priority was the Dodgers," Guerra said. "I feel great, I feel ready to go, so why not represent your country and see that kind of hitting this early?"
Guerra had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Nov. 2, ending a trying year for the right-hander. He began the season as closer but was demoted in May, and that was after getting hit in the face by a line drive in April. Guerra had knee surgery in June, then came back and was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque after a streak of nine consecutive scoreless appearances. He rejoined the team when rosters expanded in September but only pitched one game before suffering an oblique injury that ended his season.
So it was understandable that Guerra was concentrated more on getting healthy in the offseason rather than committing to joining Team Mexico for the WBC. But as the winter progressed, Guerra's health improved.
"Coming off shoulder surgery I never knew how quickly you could recover or how good your body could feel. As of December I felt really good, and in January I felt good, but I just didn't want any setbacks," Guerra said. "When they asked (Saturday), I said I felt great and ready to go. I want to compete at that level."
Manager Don Mattingly said Guerra hasn't been on any medical reports this spring and other than having an extra day between bullpen sessions early in camp Guerra has been on a fairly regular routine. General manager Ned Colletti said he believes Guerra when the reliever says he is fully healthy.
"We don't get involved unless there is a medical condition," said Colletti. "I trust him. I trust that he's healthy, and that he feels 100% and that he has no issues.
"It's part of their choices, and we understand where the club sits as far as that goes. It's up to them. They'll ask us sometimes, especially guys who are trying to make a club, if it's better to be seen in camp or to be seen on television. It's always a personal choice, and we let them do what they need to do."
Guerra grew up in Texas but both parents are from Mexico, and he will join teammates Adrian Gonzalez and Luis Cruz on Team Mexico, which also has Fernando Valenzuela as a coach. Cruz said he doesn't think the time away from camp will be a bad thing for the Dodgers.
"We all have to go there and do our jobs and I think we're going to be fine," Cruz said.
It echoes what Mattingly said on Sunday about his players leaving for the WBC, which also include Hanley Ramirez (Dominican Republic), Ronald Belisario (Venezuela), and Nick Punto (Italy).
"If you ask every manager and general manager if they would rather have their players in camp, yes we'd rather have them here with us. But in the big picture of things, you don't want to stand in the way of the growth of the game internationally, and that's what the WBC represents," Mattingly said. "I think we have to sacrifice our guys being gone, but the guys are playing baseball. It's not like they're out playing basketball."
Guerra, who is fighting for one of roughly two spots in the Dodgers bullpen, thinks his time away from camp will help his chances of making the team, rather than hurt them.
"You kind of have to not worry about what the possibilities are. If I go out there and face the greatest hitters and get everyone out, I can only get better," Guerra said. "At that point I can't control the decisions made around me. I can only control what I do on the mound."
Team Mexico plays the Dodgers on Wednesday at Camelback Ranch, then begins WBC play in Pool D on Thursday against Italy at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Mexico plays Team USA Friday night then battles Canada on Saturday afternoon, both at Chase Field. Among the major league hitters Guerra could face this week in the WBC are Joey Votto, Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie, Punto, Chris Denorfia, Alex Liddi, Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer, Giancarlo Stanton, David Wright, Brandon Phillips, Mark Teixeira, Ben Zobrist, and more.
"It's a very, very competitive tournament, and a tournament filled with pride, and guys look forward to that opportunity," Colletti said. "It's an honor to be selected, really."
Guerra is slated to pitch an inning on Sunday against the Indians, while Gonzalez, Cruz, and Punto are all starting against Cleveland. Ramirez left camp Sunday morning and will fly to Puerto Rico to report to Team Dominican Republic, and Belisario will also be en route to Puerto Rico on Sunday for Team Venezuela.
Cruz, Gonzalez and Guerra all report to Team Mexico at Camelback Ranch on Monday, while Punto reports to Team Italy at Papago Park in Phoenix, spring home of the Athletics. Italy had been training at Camelback Ranch prior to their planned move to Phoenix.