Javy Guerra now wise elder of Marlins bullpen

In terms of appearances, Miami Marlins reliever Javy Guerra is trending towards the longest season in his Major League career since 2014, his first season with the Chicago White Sox. Somehow, through all the trades and transactions, he is also now the oldest reliever in the bullpen.

Even though Guerra is the only Marlins reliever is in his 30’s, he doesn’t see himself as the elder statesman of the bullpen. Maybe slightly older brother, if anything.

“I don’t think of it that way because I’ve had a lot of these guys in the past in Triple-A and now we’ve come up together, it feels like for a little while now,” Guerra said. “Everyone down there is like your family anyways. If I’m the old guy, I’ll take it.”

Guerra signed with the Marlins as a minor league free agent going into the 2017 season after one year with the Angels’ Triple-A Salt Lake City Bees. While he spent much of last season with the newly named New Orleans Baby Cakes, he saw first hand the development of much of the young pitchers that are with him in Miami today.

“It’s fun to really watch these guys blossom,” Guerra said, referencing his young teammates. “They’re throwing the ball really well. Everything’s coming together. They got a lot of bright futures ahead of them.”

Guerra’s career began in Los Angeles on the same season as Don Mattingly began his managerial career with the Dodgers. It was also Guerra’s best season and lone full year as the closer. He has had multiple solid seasons since but has never been as good. He got his first save of the season by coming in for the struggling Kyle Barraclough on August 6, against the St. Luis Cardinals and securing 2-1 win by getting Yadier Molina to ground into a double-play. His role is basically random. Sometimes he comes in to hold down an inning, sometimes he comes in for the starting pitcher mid-inning.

“Javy is a guy who understands his role,” Mattingly said. “He fits for me a lot like the (Dustin) McGowan role last year. Older guys that’s been around understand when you take the ball and that part of his role is to take the ball in different situations and I think he’s been perfect for that. He’s durable. He bounces back. He’ll throw 30, we’ll give him a day off and he’s ready to go the next day. He know’s exactly what is expected out of him and I know that’s what makes him so valuable for us.”

“Baseball has evolved and now they’re giving more meaning to different innings,” Guerra said. “So you have to be ready for any chaos that might happen along the way.”

The ERA can be misleading for him because most of his earned runs are grouped in just a few games. Guerra stills combines a 93-mph fastball with a curve, slider and changeup and can average one strikeout per inning pitched.

Over the course of the season, the Tampa Bay Rays have experimented with a new pitching role, known as the “opener” which would a reliever actually pitch in the first inning and have the usual starting pitcher go in the second inning and begin at the bottom half of the opposing lineup. It started with veteran pitcher Sergio Romo, someone who had and then lost his role as the closer.

Which then begs the question, if the opener idea ever makes it to the National League, would Guerra be the right guy for it?

“It doesn’t sound as bad as I thought,” Guerra said.


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Sports Kave senior writer

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