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08/26/08 1:06 AM EST
Twins bolster 'pen, bring back Guardado
Left-hander offers Minnesota veteran presence in setup role
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The Twins addressed their need for late-inning relief help on Monday by bringing back a very familiar name. Left-hander Eddie Guardado is once again a Twin after the club completed a trade with Texas, sending Minor League pitcher Mark Hamburger to Texas in return for the man who was once the team's closer. "We've been searching for a veteran reliever to pitch in late-game situations," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "Eddie certainly fits that. Our staff knows him well. A few of our players still know him well. Eddie was just good fit for us." Guardado, 37, began his big league career in Minnesota when he was called up as a starter in 1993. He pitched nearly 10 seasons with the Twins and helped them to American League Central titles in 2002 and 2003 as the club's closer before leaving as a free agent after the '03 season. Although he won't be in that closing spot now, Guardado could help the Twins bridge the gap to their current All-Star closer Joe Nathan -- something that Minnesota has had problems with lately. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't anoint Guardado as the club's eighth-inning man, but he was clearly glad to have a veteran presence among his setup options. "We'll see how he's throwing," Gardenhire said of Guardado. "Rumor has it, he's been pretty good. We'll see how everything breaks down and mix and match, but he gives us another late-inning guy with courage, a lot of courage." Guardado, who earned the nickname "Everyday Eddie" during his time with the Twins for his ability to pitch effectively for a stretch of several days, was 3-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 55 appearances for the Rangers this season. After battling through his share of injuries in recent seasons, Guardado completed all four of his save opportunities this season for the Rangers and held opponents to a .220 batting average against. The news of Guardado's return brought plenty of smiles in the Twins' clubhouse -- especially in the coaches' locker room and Gardenhire's office. Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer are the only current Twins who have played with Guardado, but Gardenhire believes that the beloved pitcher will be a perfect fit in the clubhouse now as well. That is, if he doesn't pull too many pranks on them first. "Those guys out there better be afraid. They ought to be scared that Eddie Guardado is coming in here," Gardenhire said, jokingly. "He takes it to a new level as far as entertaining in the clubhouse. We have tried to explain to them a little bit about Eddie, but we figured we'd let them enjoy him for themselves." Guardado, who has long talked about wanting to some day return to the Twins, showed his excitement about the move by his quick arrival in Seattle. After learning the news of the trade while with the Rangers in Kansas City, Guardado told pitching coach Rick Anderson he was hopping on a plane and planning to be with the team by game time. He arrived at Safeco Field around 6 p.m. PT and was going to be dressed for Monday night's game, wearing his old No. 18. To make room for Guardado on their active roster, the Twins designated third baseman Mike Lamb for assignment. The Twins have 10 days to trade or release Lamb, who was in the first year of a two-year, $6.6 million contract. If they cannot complete a trade, the Twins will be on the hook for the remaining $3.8 million still owed to Lamb. The Twins had been searching for bullpen help for nearly two months. The loss of primary setup man Pat Neshek in early May to an elbow injury certainly hurt. And Juan Rincon's struggles, which led to his release, also eliminated one of the Twins' options. That put a lot of extra work on Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain, who have shown the effects of pitching a lot of innings recently. "We've looked at it every day for the month of August," Smith said of the waiver wire. "We've claimed a number of players. But once you get the waiver claim, you have to work out a deal with another deal. Sometimes, those were more difficult." The club tried to acquire Guardado before the July 31 Trade Deadline. At the time, Texas' asking price for the pitcher was too steep. But after unsuccessful waiver claims on other relievers, the Twins finally were able to find a fit with Texas for Guardado this time around. "This is one area where we think we can help out the guys that are overpitched," Gardenhire said of adding Guardado. "And we're hoping this is going to be at least a part of the solution, get another arm out there to help us out." What makes the move even better for the Twins is that they know what they are getting in Guardado. "This time of the year you have to get out there and play and you have to want the ball," Gardenhire said. "You can't back away from situations and Eddie doesn't back away from anything. He'll take the ball and give you everything he has. He'll do the best he can and he's a good teammate, pumps the guys up. He does all those things for you." In exchange for Guardado, the Twins gave up Hamburger, who went 1-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 27 appearances for the rookie Elizabethton Twins after being signed in an open tryout at the Metrodome in June 2007. The right-hander and St. Paul, Minn., native was named the Appalachian Closer of the Year, going 13-for-14 in save opportunities. The Twins also will pick up the remainder of Guardado's $2 million salary for the 2008 season, which is around $400,000, plus a $100,000 bonus because he was traded.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.