Deolis Guerra was once one of the top prospects in baseball, and a key to the Johan Santana trade with the Twins several years ago. He has failed to live up to that hype, and fell to the point where he could be acquired as a minor league free agent by the Pirates this off-season. For that reason, his success this year has come as a surprise.
Guerra has never had a season of baseball with an ERA under 4.00 since his first professional season in 2006 at Single-A. However, this season with Indianapolis, he has worked 34.2 innings to the tone of a 1.30 ERA in relief. As for the success, Guerra points simply to one pitch.
“I think that is because I have been able to throw the changeup for strikes more than I have in the past,” Guerra said. “I have been able to command my fastball and my off speed pitches better than I have been.”
Along with the strong overall numbers, Guerra has allowed runs in just three of his 23 outings. His only sideways appearance came on April 21st, when he gave up four runs in just 0.2 innings. In addition, through Tuesday, Guerra has a scoreless streak of nine straight games. Over that stretch, he has allowed only seven base runners on six hits and a walk.
The success has caught the eye of his manager Dean Treanor, who has even been using Guerra in save situations over the past few weeks when Blake Wood needs a day off.
“If [Blake] Wood is not available, we go right to [Guerra],” Treanor said. “I can’t say enough about him. When you first see him, you think OK. But the more that you are around him, you see and appreciate him more. It is a different look and a different set of pitches. It is about keeping the hitters off-balance. It is a pitching cliché, but this guy keeps the hitters off-balance and you don’t know what to expect.”
The strikeout numbers are up for Guerra this year and the walk numbers have been deceiving. The right-hander is over a strikeout per inning, and has walked just eight. Of those walks, five came in his first six outing of the season.
“I think that this year, I feel more comfortable with [my pitches],” Guerra said. “It is just the command that is something that makes it a lot better. When hitters see that you can’t throw a pitch for a strike, they just eliminate that pitch and they go on to the next one. When you can throw those pitches for a strike you put it in their mind that it could be coming. That has led to success.”
Guerra said that the mix of pitches allows him to keep the hitters guessing, which is a win on his side.
“Hitting is just like pitching,” Guerra said. “It is all about timing. Off speed pitches are something that really mess with a hitter’s timing. I use that as an advantage.”
While his fastball never leaves the low 90s, Treanor has talked to others who say that the off speed pitches and the arm speeds that follow make it look much harder.
“I’ve had some hitters say to me they have seen the changeup from him and then they say the fastball looks like 100 miles per hour,” Treanor said. “He has a lot of positive things working for him and that is really one of them. The changeup is a really great pitch and probably ranks up there with the best that I have seen.”
With this, Treanor said “he has done a great job with us, and I know at some point he will end up in Pittsburgh.”
While there is just a distant, outside chance for Guerra to have his name called to go up, he has still easily put his name in the hat as an option. That is much further than his past history would have given him and shows that about anything is possible with the way that he is throwing.