Guardado gets job done for Texas
Reliable lefty stepping up while Wilson works on mechanics
ARLINGTON -- C.J. Wilson is still trying to work out some mechanical issues, leaving the job of Rangers closer to a 37-year-old left-hander whose best fastball is clocked right around 87 mph.That's the slowest fastball on the staff, but Eddie Guardado gets the job done. He went into Tuesday's game with the Yankees with a 2.11 ERA in his past 24 outings. He had not allowed a run in 22 of 24 games. Now, he has the job of interim closer and plenty of sage advice for others. "Whenever the phone rings, I'm ready to go," Guardado said. "I can't control what the manager and front office does. When the phone rings, I'm ready. It's not like I've never been in that position before. "The main thing is to get C.J. healthy and ready to go. We need him healthy." Wilson has struggled of late with a 9.35 ERA in his past 10 games. He also has two blown saves on the current homestand, although the Rangers came back to win both of them. Guardado, who first pitched in the Majors in 1993, understands what Wilson is going through. "It's a learning experience for him," Guardado said. "His first year as a full-time closer, there's a lot of pressure on him, no doubt about it. He's learning every time he goes out there and toes the rubber. He'll take his lumps, but he learns from them." Guardado and Wilson have talked much during the season. "I try to keep it as simple as possible," Guardado said. "Obviously, when you're the closer, the game is riding on your shoulders, but the big thing is not to think too much. We all know C.J. thinks too much. I've told him that. You need to go out there and trust your stuff and see what happens. Trust the strike zone." Guardado had to take his lumps early. He had a 6.18 ERA as a rookie for the Twins in 1993 and an 8.47 ERA in just four appearances in 1994. His ERA was over 5.00 in his first two full seasons in 1995-96, and he didn't become a full-time closer until 2002. He was 31 at that point, but he made the American League All-Star team and set a Twins single-season record with 45 saves. Now he gets people out with an 87-mph fastball and is not sure how. "I don't know, bro, I wish I had an answer for you," Guardado said. "The best I can tell you is I pound the strike zone, I keep the ball down and, for the most part, I stay ahead of hitters. I'm not afraid, I know what I've got and I trust it." Therein lies the lesson for not only Wilson but other young Rangers pitchers. "He knows he's not going to overpower people," catcher Gerald Laird said. "But he pitches and he locates the ball. That's the bottom line. His location is the best on the team. He trusts himself. You can see it. He's not afraid to throw his fastball down and away and say, 'You've got to beat me with my best pitch.'" Experience certainly helps. Guardado has made 820 career relief appearances. The rest of the bullpen has 523, including 177 by Wilson. "Confidence is huge," Guardado said. "If you have no confidence throwing at 96, you'll get pounded every time. If you've got confidence throwing at 80 mph, you're going to be fine. "Obviously, we know C.J. has great stuff, but I get tired talking about great arms. I think C.J., I don't think he trusts his stuff. He's got to quit thinking. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. I think he'll be fine, once he gets over the hump and once he gets healthy. "He just needs to say, 'Here's 96 [mph], bro, see if you can hit it.' "
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.