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Guardado, Reds agree to minor league contract

CINCINNATI -- Closer Eddie Guardado has marked his calendar.

Eddie Guardado Guardado

The 36-year-old reliever accepted a minor league contract Monday
from the Cincinnati Reds, who are giving him a chance to work his
way back from reconstructive elbow surgery. The left-hander has
been playing catch for about two weeks.

If all goes well, he could be pitching by the middle of the
season.

"I'm looking at June 19 or 20," Guardado said Monday during a
telephone interview from his offseason home in Tustin, Calif.
"That's my date. I'm counting my days."

The closer known as "Everyday Eddie," who saved 36 games
for Seattle in 2005, is trying to extend a career that had its first
significant setback last season. The Reds got him on July 6 in a
trade with Seattle, which had demoted him to a setup role.

He converted his first seven save chances in Cincinnati, helping
the NL's worst bullpen settle down. Guardado's elbow then started
bothering him, forcing him onto the disabled list Aug. 20. He was
10-of-12 in save chances at the time.

When the soreness didn't go away, he had tests that found the
first elbow injury of his career. He had surgery in September to
repair a torn ligament and tendon.

The Reds liked what he did before he got hurt, and are still
looking for help in their revamped bullpen.

Right-hander David Weathers, who led the team with 12 saves last
season, got a $5 million, two-year deal in December. Also,
left-hander Mike Stanton agreed to a $5.5 million, two-year
contract, giving the Reds another late-game option.

Guardado was a free agent after last season, when he made $6.25
million. Even though he couldn't throw a ball because of the
surgery, several teams contacted him about accepting a minor league
deal for his recovery.

"I had a few teams calling me, which was pretty interesting,"
Guardado said. "My agent told [the Reds] we were going to give
them the first opportunity because I got hurt and I couldn't do my
best for them. I try to be loyal to the people who help me."

If Guardado is added to the major league roster, he would get a
$500,000 salary for the season. The deal also includes an
opportunity to make approximately $1.4 million in bonuses based
upon time on the roster, and another $1.2 million in performance
bonuses. Guardado could reach all of them if he pitches the second
half of the season for Cincinnati.

The contract also gives the Reds a 2008 option that would range
from $3 million to $7 million, depending upon how much he pitches
this season.

Guardado is pleased with how his rehabilitation is going. Two
weeks ago, he started tossing a baseball about 90 feet. There's
been no pain in the elbow, but he has a long way to go in his
recovery.

"I always try to be positive," Guardado said. "I've been
blessed to have 13 years in the majors without getting hurt. I've
had a pretty good career. The wear-and-tear finally got me. I'm
going to bounce back."