GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is hoping Javy Guerra can build on his strong rookie season.
Guerra was promoted last May and went 2-2 with 21 saves in 23 chances and a 2.31 ERA. But Mattingly isn’t ready to call the 26-year-old right-hander an established closer.
“The only thing that scares me about Javy is that he doesn’t even have a full season yet … That second year, you never know how it rolls out,” Mattingly said. “That’s the only thing that bothers me at all. Nothing about performance.”
Hard-throwing Kenley Jansen or Mike MacDougal could step in if Guerra falters, but the 6-foot native of Denton, Texas, sure looked unflappable last season.
Mattingly didn’t have many options in his worn-down bullpen when he gave Guerra his first save opportunity on May 24 in Houston.
Pitching in front of some family members, Guerra retired the first batter. He then got an 0-2 count on Bill Hall, before missing his spot with a pitch.
“And he hits a home run, but it’s a foot foul,” Guerra said. “I said, ‘Wow!'”
He struck him out with the next pitch, and the third batter lined out to right.
Three batters faced, eight pitches, all strikes. One save.
“I remember sitting after the game and thinking, ‘OK, You got one.'” Guerra said. “There’s a sigh of relief … I think that game gave me the most confidence. It was awesome.”
Guerra was brought in to preserve a 1-0 lead against San Diego on July 8, and the Padres promptly loaded the bases with no outs. The rookie responded by striking out Kyle Phillips and Will Venable before center fielder Matt Kemp made a nice catch on Jason Bartlett’s liner to center to end the game.
Guerra said he’s learned from older players to try to slow the game down.
“Everything happens really quickly,” he said. “So you try to slow it down, step off and do what you need to focus on that pitch alone, not the next pitch, not the next guy.”
NOTES: Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax appeared at camp Friday. He talked to various Dodgers, including fellow left-handed Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Did he give the rising star any advice? “Stay healthy,” Koufax said. … Mattingly has studied players who get off to slow starts, including first baseman James Loney, second baseman Mark Ellis and left-fielder Juan Rivera. In Loney’s case, he has gotten off to better starts when he gets plenty of at-bats in spring training. “So we’re going to try to give him more than probably most. For Ellis and Rivera, it doesn’t seem to matter that much,” Mattingly said. … The Dodgers signed two players from Thursday’s open tryout; pitcher Blake Johnson and infielder Brandon Mims.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.