Posted at 9:04 PM on August 12, 2008
by David Zingler
It's no secret the Twins bullpen has struggled this year. Matt Guerrier, one of the team's most reliable middlemen since 2005, is indicative of that. The 30-year-old has seen his ERA rise almost two full points from his 2007 level (2.35 to 4.33) and has already walked more batters in 60 1/3 innings (25) than he did in 88 last year (21).
I sat down with the always stand-up reliever prior to tonight's game:
DZ: Since you've been here this has been one of the best bullpens (in baseball). This year you've had your ups-and-downs; what's been the difference?
GUERRIER: I don't know. We've hit some bad streaks...(in the past) we've had a bad outing and it's long time before we have another one. (This year) it's been grouped together with another one. We've had some guys go down - we had some guys go down last year and we were able to pick it up - hopefully we've gotten all of that stuff out of us heading into the end of the year.
DZ: Your role has evolved since you got here - in the beginning you were tucked away as the long guy and now you are used in prominent spots and are one of the veterans out there, what has that process been like?
GUERRIER: It's been crazy. Like you said, I was the long guy for a while and even at times this year and last year, I've done some long stuff. I just try and stay ready for any situation. I like pitching in games where we're winning and it's close to the end (of the game). It's been fun to go through the whole process. I've pretty much done everything; started a couple of games and done everything in the bullpen except close.
DZ: When you've watched the whole game in the bullpen, come in with your team ahead and it doesn't work out, what's it like heading back to the clubhouse?
GUERRIER: It's tough. You have to feel like they want you out there...it helps out when they keep giving us opportunities...if we are going to have just one bad outing and not be used anymore - it makes it real tough...What you have to do as a reliever is you have to go in and forget about the day before and try and shut them down.
You can't go out there and say, "I screwed up last game and I don't want to screw up again"...(because) if stuff starts to go wrong you think, "Now I am stuck, here we go again, I am going to give it up again." You have to have a short memory, get the first guy and after that you get the second guy and things start to happen...it's one of those things where you have to keep your confidence no matter what happens.
DZ: This year - not just you, but other guys in the bullpen - have really good numbers at home, but haven't done as well on the road. Is there any way to explain that or is it just one of those weird things that happen?
GUERRIER: I think it is just one of those weird things. You look around at a lot of teams, that is the case. Especially this year, I think the numbers around the league - wins and losses at home or on the road - there's a huge difference...I have typically been better on the road, but it's just been one of those things where you stretch your bad breaks and things don't go your way...With this long road trip coming up, we've got to turn that around and get on the good side.
DZ: Every year I ask you this, so I have to ask you again: Do you still want to be a starter or have you adjusted to being in the bullpen to the point where you think "This is my role, this is where I want to be"?
GUERRIER: I am open to anything. If I am pitching late in the game in winning situations, I like pitching in the bullpen. I like getting the chance to throw every day - my arm feels good day after day and that's one thing they like about me being the 'pen. Obviously, you lose that if you become a starter...and it's been four or five years since I really started here. It's something that I've always kept in the back of my mind. If they ever asked, I'd take it on, but I enjoy where I am at right now.
DZ: Juan Rincon had been around here for a long time (since 2001) and this year things didn't work out (he was released in June). What's it like when you lose someone like that - who has played such a prominent role? How does it affect the chemistry?
GUERRIER: It's tough. We are a close-knit group down there and Juan had been here since I've been here and when Jesse (Crain) and I came up, he was a guy we could look up to. It helped to watch him go out there relaxed and trust his stuff no matter what happened. Even when he was struggling a little bit, he was going out there and attacking and going right at guys. He was a good leader for us and it's tough to lose a guy like that, but when you play baseball, stuff like that happens. It's good to see he's with somebody else (Cleveland) and we get to see him once and awhile.
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
August 1st: Nick Punto
July 31st: Justin Morneau
July 30th: Scott Baker
June 30th: Brian Bass
June 27th: Brian Buscher
June 18th: Matt Macri
June 6th: Craig Breslow
June 4th: Michael Cuddyer
May 25th: Nick Punto & Mike Redmond
May 20th: Justin Morneau
May 1st: Nick Blackburn
April 29th: Brendan Harris
April 20th: Jason Kubel
April 17th: Denard Span
April 2nd: Matt Tolbert
Heh... I might have waited a day or two before posting this interview. I've been a fan of Guerrier for a long time, but two home runs in the 12th? Two?!?
Seriously, what's been wrong with the `pen this year? And you can't simply say that it's because Neshek went down. The Twins' have overcome not having an abundance of strong bats to become one of the most prolific scoring teams in the league. However, this is something we won't be able to overcome if it continues. The bullpen is our biggest weakness right now, no question.
yeah...i had some bad timing with this one....i posted it before he entered the game....
It's all right. Like I said, he's a good kid, and I know the bullpen has been really overworked this year. It's just tough to watch the inconsistencies. Guerrier, Crain, or Reyes will come out and will pitch brilliantly, and then totally fall apart the next time. It must tough for Gardy to figure exactly which arm to put out there for each situation.
I agree with Erik. Great interview, David!!