Player Profile: Q&A with Javy Guerra
Javy Guerra recently signed a minor league deal with the Miami Marlins after a season in the Los Angeles Angels organization. Guerra spent most of last season with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League, recording a 4.35 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched. He was most well-known as the Los Angeles Dodgers reliever early in his career from 2011-13 before joining the Chicago White Sox from 2014-15.
I caught up with Guerra in the middle of this past season to reflect on the beginning of his career and where he is now.
27 Outs: What was your first career save situation like?
Guerra: We were at Houston. Anybody who’s ever thrown at Houston understands that you’re throwing inside a little cubical. Every fastball you throw, even if it’s 83 mph, feels like you’re throwing 95 mph. So that helped me. You’re throwing a few heaters and you felt like you were on. It felt good. I’ll never forget, I threw a 0-2 cutter to Bill Hall and he hooked it two feet foul. It could’ve been it right there. If he hit it straight it could’ve been tied and I wouldn’t have gotten another chance. But he fouled and the next pitch I threw it perfect and it was over. I felt like a part of the team.
27 Outs: Were there a lot of nerves during that situation?
Guerra: Not at all. It felt like you’ve been there before. As big as it was at the time, I think the Dodgers did a really good job in getting me involved in the mental side of it. I had Kenny Howell and I can’t tell you how much he helped me in my career. A long time Dodger, he really helped me in the bullpen understanding what it was to be mentally prepared and physically prepared for every day and understand the situations at hand. I think he really prepped me for that position.
27 Outs: What was your rookie costume?
Guerra: A taco. You should’ve seen the other guys. They got hooked up. They made them go like a fairy, a lot of diapers, a lot of wings. They hooked it up.
27 Outs: What’s the difference between you as a pitcher now and your rookie self?
Guerra: My first year I was a two-pitch, fastball-cutter guy and I think that ultimately got me in trouble. Now I evolved and can throw a curveball, now I can throw a splitter. Now it just depends on understanding the hitters and understanding the scouting reports a lot better. Back then no one knew what you were doing so you got away with murder the first two or three times you saw them but as the league catches up with video and technology, it’s harder for you to really get ahead of guys the second or third time through. So you have to have something new to go to.
27 Outs: Where did the emphasis to throw a curveball originate?
Guerra: I know when I was a Dodger that was a big thing. Rick Honeycutt always wanted me to throw the curveball. I think coming in and closing was awesome right out the gate, but I wasn’t going to really lose a game on my third or fourth best pitch at the time. Now I’ve really given that pitch time to evolve and it’s somewhere that I can really feel confident in throwing it in any count and get good separation in speed. 95 mph to 77 mph, that’s a huge difference. It gives you a chance to separate hitters.
27 Outs: What’s the biggest difference between being called up the first time and being called up now?
Guerra: You’re older. You realize there’s a small window for failure. When I went up, I did my job the first two, didn’t do it the next two. You got to be accountable. You’re not the young guy. You have to be able to go immediately. For me it’s a learning process but realistically your learning curve is smaller. So you have to be conscious every day about getting better and realistically no matter what happens you create your own luck and you got to be able to live with that. I really feel like you get what you get. Once you get [back to the big leagues] there’s a small window. You either make it or you don’t. Sink or swim.