07/15/2003 10:43 PM ET
Not an Everyday occurrence
Guardado doesn't take All-Star honor for granted
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
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CHICAGO -- It was a quirk of alphabetical fate that had the remainder of the American League Central All-Stars announced following the thunderous applause given to White Sox representatives Carl Everett and Magglio Ordonez prior to Tuesday night's 74th All-Star Game.
First, there were a few boos handed out to Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, jeers that diminished but held somewhat steady when Detroit's Dimitri Young was introduced. But they picked up again when Mike MacDougal and Mike Sweeney from the first-place Kansas City Royals stepped forward and tipped their caps.
Then, came Minnesota's Eddie Guardado. Enough animosity already has been built with the intense division rivalry between the Twins and the White Sox. Factor in Guardado's roll in numerous White Sox losses as the Twins closer, and the jeers came cascading down.
Guardado tipped his cap, smiled and stepped back in line. Making his second straight All-Star appearance, the 32-year-old left-hander was too excited to even notice.
"I didn't think most people got lucky in this world twice," said Guardado with a smile, regarding his second trip to the Midsummer Classic as the lone Minnesota representative. "It's a lot of fun and always a true honor."
Guardado posted a 1-4 record with a 3.75 earned run average in the first half of the season, saving 20-of-22. He finished with a league-best 45 saves in 51 opportunities during 2002.
In the newly-added player voting to help pick the All-Star reserves and pitching staff, Guardado ranked at the top of the American League relievers. That vote meant almost as much as the honor itself.
"That shows they have a little respect for me, and I like that," the affable Guardado said with a smile. "It's pretty nice.
"But I don't look much at statistics. I didn't really think much about being an All-Star again until I was chosen."
Guardado pointed out that he is a repeat All-Star mainly because of Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire's choice to make him a closer upon taking over the team in 2002. Guardado saved 30 games during his first nine years in the Major Leagues.
The call came from Gardenhire during the offseason, a talk that Guardado immediately thought was a put on from the Twins' leader. It was no joke, and neither has been Guardado's effort as the consistent final piece to a Minnesota victory.
It hasn't been a move that changed Guardado's life or his approach to pitching. It simply added a different title to his job definition.
"My only difference is the word closer sits before or after my name," Guardado said. "My philosophy is to stay under control, hit my spots, keep the ball down and hopefully they hit it at somebody.
"I go right at competitors and say, 'Here's what I got. This is it,'" Guardado said.
American League manager Mike Scioscia met with the team prior to Tuesday's game, congratulating each player on having the numbers to warrant an All-Star honor. He also informed the pitchers that a number of the starters would be working multiple innings, so closers such as Guardado, Keith Foulke or MacDougal might not get into the game.
But Guardado quickly found himself pitching in a closer's situation of sorts, only this one took place with two outs in the fifth, runners on first and second and the National League leading, 2-1. Guardado's first offering to pinch-hitter Andruw Jones was laced down the left field line for a ground-rule double, scoring two.
Two pitches later, Albert Pujols singled to left, scoring Jones and giving the National League a 5-1 lead. Guardado finished off the inning, inducing Barry Bonds' ground ball to first, but his effort Tuesday was somewhat akin to the Twins' struggles as a team going into the break.
"That's baseball for you," Guardado said after throwing eight pitches. "But it was still fun. We came back, and it was a very exciting finish.
"You always keep on plugging along, even when you are down a few runs. You never know what will happen with the caliber of players we have here."
He also has allowed four runs in his last two innings while pitching at U.S. Cellular. Guardado gave up an 11th inning, game-tying home run to Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas' 12th-inning game-winner in an 8-6 loss to the White Sox on July 2.
The brief but rough effort couldn't take away from the enjoyment Guardado found during his two days in Chicago. He attended the All-Star Gala at the Field Museum Monday night with his wife, Lisa, after sitting through the exciting Home Run Derby. It was one enjoyable moment after another for the California native, not always the case when he has to pitch in Chicago.
Guardado even allowed himself a little time to take in the teammates sitting around him in the White Sox home clubhouse. It's not a bad group to close for, if you ever have the chance.
"The only problem is I wouldn't pitch much because this team wouldn't need a closer," said Guardado, who brought his son, Nico, 6, to last year's All-Star Game in Milwaukee but only had pictures of Nico and Jacob, 1, in his locker this year.
"But just think if you were on this team every day of the season," Guardado added. "Playing with this sort of talent -- that's one of the things that makes being an All-Star so memorable."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.