Twins get reliever Guardado from Texas for minor leaguer
SEATTLE -- Everyday Eddie is back with Minnesota, adding experience to a squad in the thick of a pennant race.
Eddie Guardado was acquired by the Twins on Monday in a trade with the Texas Rangers for a minor league pitcher. His career appeared to be over when he had ligament replacement surgery on his elbow 23 months ago, but he's healthy again and took over the closer role for the Rangers earlier this month when C.J. Wilson got hurt.
Guardado arrived in the visiting clubhouse in Seattle 70 minutes before Minnesota's game against the Mariners. Then he gave the Twins the dependable, eighth-inning setup work they've been seeking for months.
The 37-year-old retired Ichiro Suzuki on a ground ball, then Yuniesky Betancourt and Raul Ibanez on meager infield popups in a quick, perfect debut. The entire roster gave Guardado fist pumps in the dugout and pitching coach Rick Anderson put his arm around Guardado after his first appearance for Minnesota since the 2003 AL division series, against the Yankees.
The Twins eventually lost 4-2 in 11 innings, falling a game behind the AL Central-leading White Sox because Chicago split two games with Baltimore on Monday.
The 37-year-old Guardado was 3-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 49 1/3 innings for Texas. Opponents are batting .220 against the left-hander this season.
"He gives us another late-inning guy -- with courage," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, who coached Guardado in the Twins' minor league system in the early 1990s.
Gardenhire's first announcement when he replaced longtime mentor Tom Kelly to manage Minnesota at the beginning of 2002 was that Guardado was his closer. The Twins won consecutive division titles in 2002-03, and Guardado was an All Star both years.
Guardado has 187 career saves, 116 with Minnesota, where he played from 1993-03 and earned his nickname for the number of innings he logged.
The manager still chuckles about all the times the clubhouse prankster sneaked into his office and cut up his socks or underwear.
"And he's pretty much laid low with me. Those guys out there ought to be afraid," Gardenhire said, pointing into the visiting clubhouse containing Guardado's new teammates. "Because he takes it to another level to entertain in the clubhouse. We've tried to tell them.
"That's one of the reasons we're able to do this with Eddie. We know him. Look out rookies -- I guarantee it."
The eighth inning has been a problem for the Twins this season after setup man Pat Neshek hurt his elbow and landed on the disabled list.
"That's one area we think we can help out, give them another arm for guys who are overworked," Gardenhire said, a day after Minnesota blew a 3-2 lead in the eighth and lost 5-3 to the Angels.
"It's Eddie. He takes the ball, does his gyrations and says, 'Here it comes.' This time of year, you have to want the ball. You can't back away. Eddie does not back away from anything."
To make room for Guardado, the Twins designated third baseman Mike Lamb for assignment. After signing a two-year, $6.6 million contract with a team option for 2010, Lamb struggled at the plate and lost his job to Brian Buscher in June. The 33-year-old Lamb was batting .233 with one home run and 32 RBIs in 236 at-bats.
"The energy level was not what we expected," Gardenhire said. "He's a veteran, laid-back guy. We play at a different level."
That was news to Lamb. He says being fiery and edgy has never been his nature.
"If that was a problem, I wish someone had told me," Lamb said in a telephone interview.
Then he added, with a laugh: "I would have thrown stuff if I needed to ... I would have thrown stuff in spring training."
Texas general manager Jon Daniels said he wouldn't have made the trade if the Rangers were still in the playoff race. Minnesota claimed Guardado when he was placed on waivers.
"He was very complimentary of the situation of the organization and appreciated the opportunity to go back to the Twins," Daniels said during a conference call. "Certainly only positive feelings on both sides."
To take Guardado's place, the Rangers purchased the contract of left-hander Bill White from Triple-A Oklahoma. White was expected to join the team Monday but didn't not pitch in Texas' 9-4 win at Kansas City.
Right-hander Frank Francisco will move into the ninth-inning role. Daniels declined to speculate who would close for Texas in 2009.
Minnesota sent 21-year-old right-hander Mark Hamburger to the Rangers, who will assign him to their Class-A club in Clinton, Iowa.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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