Posted at 9:04 PM on June 1, 2005
by David Zingler
With the “Twins Territory” advertising campaign saturating Twin Cities area television and radio waves along with the Star Tribune’s recently completed medallion promotion, Twins reliever Matt Guerrier enjoys a luxury that most of his teammates don’t these days -- anonymity.
“Not at all really,” Guerrier responded when asked how often he is recognized around town. “Sometimes I go places with (Justin) Morneau and he gets recognized (and people say) ‘Who are you? It’s no problem though, (Morneau) says I am a relief pitcher and they might act like they know me, but who knows if they really do.”
The confusion even continues at the Metrodome, where Guerrier is sometimes asked to autograph the trading card of one of his more famous teammates. “I get (Brad) Radke’s every once and awhile,” the 26-year-old explained. “Not so much anymore, but early on I was getting a lot of Radke’s.”
Guerrier, who enjoys drawing in his free time, hasn’t made it any easier for the fans with his ever changing array of facial hair, “I will grow it out, shave clean, grow a goatee, grow whatever -- it’s just whatever I feel like that day,” he said while sporting a mustache-less goatee and soul patch.
Despite his lack of notoriety, Guerrier’s presence on the team was one of the better stories coming out of spring training. Locked in an intense battle for one of the few available roster spots with veterans like C.J. Nitkowski and fellow upstarts Dave Gassner and Scott Baker, Guerrier emerged from the pack to make an opening day roster for the first time in his career.
“(I found out I made the team) about two days before spring training was over,” the Ohio native said. “It came down pretty close, there were a couple of guys still left and we knew that there was only one spot. We were all competing against each other and we knew what (was at stake)...you can’t be mad at another guy for taking your spot -- hopefully.”
There were outside forces working in the rookie right-hander’s favor that helped ease the pressure. “I didn’t have options left, so I was pretty much pitching for everybody (in spring training),” Guerrier commented. “I knew that if I pitched well enough and the Twins didn’t have room for me, maybe somebody else would. I wanted to stay, but didn’t know if they had a spot for me. Certain things happened and there was a spot for me, so I am happy.”
A 10th round draft pick by the White Sox in 1999, Guerrier spent three seasons in the Chicago organization before being dealt to Pittsburgh for Damaso Marte shortly before the 2002 season. After two mediocre seasons in Triple A, the former Kent State star was claimed off waivers by the Twins in November 2003.
Guerrier impressed the Twins enough that he was called up last June and made his debut in Montreal as a starter. For now however, he’s content in the bullpen, “I would love to (start), but with our rotation, I am not complaining about being in the bullpen,” the slender hurler said. “If something happens, hopefully I can get an opportunity, but right with our starters the way they are, it’s fine being in the bullpen. We have such a good bullpen.”
I have to admit, I didn't like him when they first started using him. I was a fan of Scott Baker during spring (still think he'll be there)
but i've really grown to appreciate Guerrier's ability to come in and do mop up. It's a thankless task, but truth be told he's earning his stripes and the organization will reward that. Additionally, I hope Matt doesn't worry about his anonymity... when you're in the bullpen being anonymous means you're doing your job. Witness Danny "Gas Can" Kolb or LaTroy Hawkins... sometimes being a well known name in the pen isn't a positive.