2010 Player Preview: Angel Guzman
When we last saw Angel Guzman, he was walking off a mound (or an approximate facsimile thereof) while leaving bits and pieces of his shoulder behind on the rubber. Like Prior and Wood before him, pitching for the Cubs must have Guzman experiencing post traumatic stress disorder. Any time he stands on piece of slightly raised ground, he must feel nauseous just from the memory of arm injuries passed.
So, consider this a retrospective more than a preview. Guzman will not be pitching in 2010 for the Cubs. Or, realistically, 2011, or 2012, or ever again (unless he wants to emulate the masochist Chad Fox, who seems to derive pleasure from the pain of an in-game arm injury).
Let's look back at the olden days, when Guzman was a fresh faced prospect who threw with thunder and filled the 4th spot of Jim Hendry's dream rotation, behind Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano. Hendry said in 2003 that, had Guzman stayed healthy*, the Cubs would have won the World Series that year. Strong stuff for a youngling like Angel.
(*that's right, folks. He was suffering from a series of nagging, prolongued arm injuries as recently as a time before we invaded Iraq!)
In later years, as he made small stabs into a world without arm soreness, Guzman made all kinds of impacts on the Cubs. My favorite memory of him comes from 2006-or-so, when he described Carlos Zambrano as being a sort of "dad" to him. I don't know how the Big Moose must have felt about that, seeing as how he's not even 2 years older.
After finally getting healthy enough to pitch for the Cubs in 2006, Guzman did his best to preserve his blossoming career by pitching his way to an 0-6, 7.39 ERA record in the last days of Dusty Baker. Sadly it was too late. In '07, he managed to give Lou Piniella all of 12 games pitched and 30.1 innings of work. But the numbers were better -- 0-1, but with a 3.56 ERA.
He returned in 2008 to pitch all of 9.2 innings -- detecting a pattern here? -- this time posting a 5.59 ERA. But arm injuries struck again.
Finally, last year, Guman did the unthinkable. After cracking the riddle of cold fusion and inventing the first-ever perpetual motion device, Guzman did something even more awe inspiring: he stayed healthy. Yes, friends, Angel Guzman finally woke up one morning and said "pip pip, I shall be a reliable asset for my team, cheerio!"
He delivered upon his promise, strangely made in a contrived and non-believable British accent, by pitching 61.0 innings in relief and posting a 2.95 ERA. The Cubs were finally hoping that his arm had somehow grown immune to injury, and they were relying on Angel to be one of perhaps three trustworthy arms in a bullpen that will likely consist of seven total relievers. In other words, his "middle relief" pitching role could have just as easily been described as "essential."
But, alas, it was not meant to be. While rehabbing from knee surgery, Guzman fell into that old pitcher's trap of screwing up his mechanics and hurting his shoulder. It's a tale as old as Betty White, with Guzman's misfortunes being just another chapter.
So, he's done. Finito. Toast. It's over, Johnny.
Better luck next year, Angel, we wish you a speedy -- if not insanely unlikely -- recovery.