Can Javy Guerra Make His Way Back to Los Angeles Dodgers Closer Role?

By Michael Collins
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the spring of 2012, Javy Guerra was set in his place as the Los Angeles Dodgers closer. One year–and seemingly one thousand injuries and problems later-Guerra is just trying to make the club. Getting back to being the Dodgers stopper will be a long road for the right-hander.

When you go through a season that includes getting hit in the face with a line drive, having knee surgery, straining an oblique muscle and having shoulder surgery, it makes a comeback difficult at best. But when you pile on top of that the fact that Guerra’s father had emergency heart surgery and was in the midst of recovering from it, it adds a mental aspect to the physical repairs that had to be made.

Now Guerra has been summoned by team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic as a replacement, and will be leaving the Dodgers on Sunday. While some question the wisdom of doing this when you are fighting for a spot on a MLB team, Guerra takes it all in stride.

“I respect the situation — me coming off injuries, the new ownership expectations and what’s going on in the bullpen,” Guerra said. “But I think this will make me a better pitcher. The competition will be tough. And the game against the United States, with 40,000 people there, it will be amazing.”

Guerra knocked around the minors for eight seasons before getting his opportunity with the big club, getting to step in for injured closer Jonathan Broxton in 2011. He responded with 21 saves and a 2.31 ERA.  Things continued to go smoothly for Guerra until April of 2012, when he was smacked in the face by a Brian McCann line drive. He stayed in the game only to blow the save, and as it turns out, his knee, which was injured when he tried to move out of the way of the McCann batted ball.

From there it all seemed to spiral downward; his father’s heart surgery, then the strained oblique muscle, finally culminating with surgery for an arthritic acromioclavicular joint in his shoulder. 2012 had become a lost cause for Guerra.

But now both Guerra and his father are reportedly healthy, and the fireballer wants to get back to being the Dodgers’ closer. First things first though, he’s got to make the roster.

Unfortunately he’s facing a bullpen version of Murderer’s Row right now. Brandon League is firmly entrenched as the Dodgers closer. After that the team has youngsters Shawn Tolleson, Josh Wall, Kenley Jansen, and setup man Ronald Belisario. Throw into that mix non-roster veterans like Kevin Gregg, Peter Moylan and Mark Lowe, and it’s a deep bullpen indeed.

Guerra may be looking at a long road if he wants to return to closing, but with his mix of pitches and arm durability, there could be a spot for him possibly in long relief, depending on how some of the veterans perform this spring.

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