It came as little surprise when the Dodgers recalled pitcher Javy Guerra from Triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday.
Guerra was sent down late in spring training to pitch as a starter at Albuquerque. By his fourth start, he got stretched out to five innings and 75 pitches. The Dodgers needed a reliever who could pitch more than one inning after seeing Josh Wall — Albuquerque’s closer to begin the season — struggle in the long reliever role Monday.
Wall and Guerra swapped places Tuesday, and Guerra returned to a familiar building.
Well, mostly familiar. Once you walk down the tunnel leading into the home clubhouse area, things look a little different inside Dodger Stadium than they did last year.
“I got lost like three or four times,” Guerra said. “They told me ‘go to the weight room.’ It took me 10 minutes.”
Now that he’s here, Guerra hasn’t been told whether or not he’ll be starting or relieving. But starting doesn’t seem like his destiny; the Dodgers are expecting Clayton Kershaw to pitch Friday and either Ted Lilly or Matt Magill to go Saturday in San Francisco. Hyun-Jin Ryu will start on Sunday and, presumably, Chris Capuano next Monday. The rotation is set.
But the long reliever’s job became an important one when Lilly lasted only three innings on Monday. Guerra understands the importance of the role.
“The day a guy goes short, the bullpen has to pick it up. The day a guy goes long, you get to save those guys for the day,” he said.
Guerra went 0-2 with a 4.02 earned-run average in four starts for Albuquerque, with seven walks and 16 strikeouts. He believes those numbers were skewed, and not just by the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League parks that raised the median ERA in the league to 4.49 through Tuesday’s games.
“There were days I worked on other things,” he said. “It was OK to give up runs here and there based on getting better. You don’t ever want to give up runs but sometimes they come. You learn from them. As long as you’re learning from them, you don’t feel like you’re losing anything.”
Guerra has a curve, changeup and slider in addition to his fastball. He’s been pitching out of the windup as a starter, something he hadn’t done in five years prior to March. He hadn’t started games regularly since 2008 when he was pitching in Single-A.
Yet Guerra felt that, if he had another chance to start, he would do well with it. So far, so good.
“My last start I got up to 75 pitches,” he said. “Knowing that you had your velocity throughout the whole process was really cool.”