Guardado makes 900th appearance
Rangers southpaw becomes 21st pitcher to reach mark
OAKLAND -- Eddie Guardado has quite a display of baseballs and other memorabilia in his home office in Tustin Ranch, Calif. Another memento is ready to be added to the collection.Guardado became the 21st pitcher in Major League history to appear in 900 games when he pitched the seventh inning on Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics. Guardado will keep one of the baseballs to commemorate the event. "I must be doing something right, because I'm still around," said Guardado, who is 38 and in his 17th big league season.
He takes great pride in his durability and reliability. He may not end up in the Hall of Fame, but his reputation has grown through the years.He once was called "Every Day Eddie" by Minneapolis sportswriter Patrick Reusse and the nickname has stayed with him through the years as the appearances have piled up. He once appeared in 83 games for the Twins in 1996. That was the year that Twins manager Tom Kelly stormed out of a meeting with his coaches at the Kingdome in Seattle and yelled at Guardado, "Eddie, these guys think I'm pitching you too much. Do you think I'm pitching you too much?" Guardado smiled weakly and said no. "What are you going to tell Tom Kelly?" Guardado said, laughing about it years later. "When you're in the bullpen and the phone rings, no matter if you've pitched three days in a row or four days in a row, you take pride in being ready to go. That's how you get respect in the game from your teammates, opponents, coaching staff ... you're willing to take the ball no matter what." He has a baseball in his office from each of his milestone appearances. He also has signed jersey from his Twins teammates and the rubber from the Metrodome mound -- also signed by teammates -- from when he set a new Twins record for most career appearances. That was career appearance No. 491, breaking the old mark held by Rick Aguilera. "It was the original pitching rubber from the Metrodome," Guardado said. "I have it box-framed in my office." The first appearance came on June 13, 1993, at the Metrodome. Guardado, selected in the 21st round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft out of San Joaquin Delta (Calif.) Junior College, started for the Twins against the Athletics. "I had been in the big leagues 10 days before they finally gave me a start," Guardado said. "I'll tell you when it hit me. I'm on the mound, I grab the resin bag, throw it down and look at in center field. There's Kirby Puckett. Then I turn around and they're announcing, 'Now batting, No. 24, Rickey Henderson.' "First pitch, ball. Second pitch, groundout to shortstop. That's when it hit me. It was pretty exciting. I'll never forget it." The first win was in appearance No. 5 against Milwaukee on July 4, 1993, and the first save was on Sept. 1, 1995, also against the Brewers. That was appearance No. 63. By then the Twins realized that Guardado was better off in the bullpen. "I started out as long man, then seventh inning, eighth inning and finally closer," said Guardado, who has 187 career saves. He was still setting up in career appearance No. 100, helping Brad Radke pitch the Twins past the Rangers on May 21, 1996. The next year he picked up a 12th-inning save against the Mariners in No. 200. He was still setting up for No. 300 in 1998 and No. 400 in 2000, but No. 500, 600 and 700 were all in successful save situations. But there were other big milestones that didn't come with nice round numbers. Guardado didn't get a save in appearance No. 568 on Sept. 25, 2002. But he pitched a scoreless ninth in a 5-0 victory over the Indians and was on the bottom of a dog pile as the Twins celebrated their first division championship in 12 years. A few days later, in No. 570, he set the Twins' record for most saves in a season. When asked about his most memorable Major League appearance, Guardado cites Game 5 of the 2002 American League Division Series. He saved a 5-4 victory over the Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum. "That sent us to the Championship Series," Guardado said. Which is nice, but it doesn't count as far as career appearances. Regular season only. "Really?" Guardado said. "I didn't know that." It's hard to keep up with them all when you're approaching 900 career appearances. "Every appearance is special," Guardado said. "You're in the big leagues. When you get to perform in the big leagues and get the ball as much as I do, it's pretty special."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.