Among Dodger fans, Javy Guerra had to be the most expected September call-up from the time he was demoted on August 21. Kenley Jansen is out for at least a week and Guerra’s eight saves are second among Dodger pitchers this season. With a 2.66 ERA in 44 appearances, Guerra wasn’t really expected to be optioned to Albuquerque to make room for Rubby De La Rosa in the first place.
Yet when Guerra found out he was headed back to Los Angeles after the Isotopes’ game Friday night, he was genuinely pleased to hear the news.
“I’ve learned in this game you don’t have to expect anything,” Guerra said.
This has been a long season for Guerra, filled with enough ups and downs to affect anyone’s outlook on pitching — and life.
On April 25, he was hit in the jaw by a line drive off the bat of the Braves’ Brian McCann.
Less than two weeks later, he was stripped of the closer’s job after blowing three saves in 11 chances.
About a month after that, he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and missed 30 games.
Guerra was activated from the disabled list on July 5. Eight days later, his father suffered a heart attack and the 26-year-old pitcher left for four days to spend time with his family in Mexico (his father recovered and is now healthy enough to watch his son pitch in person).
“More than anything I’ve grown as an individual and as a player,” he said. “I’ve learned to let a lot of things go. You can’t control a lot of things. You can only work on mechanics; once you let the ball go, whatever happens happens.”
Guerra wasn’t pitching badly when he was demoted to Albuquerque. He had not allowed a run in nine straight appearances spanning 11.1 innings.
It would make sense in hindsight that the Dodgers activated De La Rosa to “audition” him for the trade market. De La Rosa hadn’t pitched in a year coming off Tommy John surgery and he was among the team’s most desirable pitching prospects. Four days later, De La Rosa was packaged (as a “player to be named later”) in the trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles.
Maybe this was part of the explanation given to Guerra, but the only one that he and manager Don Mattingly volunteered was that Guerra needed to work on his control. In his last appearance before the demotion, Guerra walked two of the three batters he faced.
Whatever the reason, Guerra took the situation in stride.
“I just really worked on making everything as simple as I possibly could,” he said. “Mechanics-wise, I just went back to basics. There’s always things I can work on in my game. Simple things. You can always get better at things. Bunting, running, whatever, I did something every day to get back.”
Guerra made three appearances for the Isotopes. He had a pair of scoreless two-inning stints Aug. 22 and 25, then allowed four runs while recording only one out last Wednesday in Oklahoma City — leaving his Triple-A ERA at an unsightly 8.31.
“I gave up a couple base hits to a couple players, a couple balls found holes,” Guerra said. “More than anything I got better that day because of command. I really worked on throwing fastballs down in the zone. Not worrying about results, as opposed to just worrying about what I was actually finishing on, what I was working on to get back here.”
Now that he’s here, Guerra does not have a defined role. In Guerra’s new outlook, that’s OK.