Guzman all the finer for move from Jays Ex-Blue Jay delighted by prospect of support

Sidelight

August 05, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

On the subject of his newly old baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, Orioles pitcher Juan Guzman speaks in sentimental tones.

The 31-year-old is fine with his new club, for whom he will start today, his first appearance since being traded for Nerio Rodriguez and minor-leaguer Shannon Carter last week.

Instead of the Blue Jays -- 54-55 at the time of the trade -- he comes to a team that features better than a snowball's chance of making the playoffs, a team that offers run support, and defense. Did somebody say, defense?

"That's going to make so much difference," Guzman said, his face in a state normally reserved for Austin Powers saying "Groovy Baby!""I'm excited about the chance to pitch with a good team that wants to win, and I can't wait for that."

And yet, while happy to be here, Guzman couldn't help but take an interest in his former club, an organization he'd been with ever since a Sept. 22, 1987 trade sent him there in exchange for Mike Sharperson.

In the almost-11 years since, he compiled a 76-62 record and won two championships, pitching in three World Series games and five American League Championship Series games. This is what he speaks of when asked how he can help the Orioles.

"I have enough experience," Guzman says. "I know what to do to help a team to the World Series, I've done it before. Twice."

Since then, however, just about everyone who was anyone on that team vanished. Robbie Alomar, Joe Carter, David Cone, Jimmy Key and Devon White were amongst those shown the door after collecting their hardware.

By the time it became Guzman's turn last week, Pat Hentgen and Ed Sprague were the only other holdouts from an era that seems about as relevant to the present as Bird-McHale-Parrish to today's Celtics.

And so, suddenly plucked from one of the continent's multicultural utopias, Guzman's lament sounded like that of a parent talking about a wayward child when speaking about the Blue Jays.

"I think everybody knows something's going on over there," Guzman said. "A lot of players are not feeling good about what's going on over there. About them trading me over here.

"I didn't expect them to trade me over to Baltimore. It's one of the teams we'd been chasing, so, you know, I don't think anybody knows what's going on."

Most surprising to Guzman was the fact that he is in Baltimore. He expected to find himself in St. Louis, Los Angeles or Texas, he said.

The Orioles, only 1 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays at the time of the trade, never entered his mind. "I knew I was definitely going somewhere, but I didn't think I'd be going to Baltimore," Guzman said.

Though 6-12 for the season, Guzman has been strong of late. In his past eight starts, he has gone 3-4, but with a spritely 2.02 ERA.

Guzman refers to this period as the end of his rehab process, begun at the start of this season as he attempted to rebound from a surgery that ended the 1997 season.

"The early part of the season was like a rehab situation I was going through, but right now I'm 100 percent," Guzman said. "My last 11 games, I pitched good enough to win."

In 1997, it was a bone spur behind his right shoulder that shortened a season in which he went 3-6 with a 4.95 ERA and wondering where his form went from 1996, when he lead the American League with a 2.93 ERA.

Though the Orioles -- concerned about the bone spur -- requested extensive medical reports on Guzman, manager Ray Miller seemed charmed by the prospect of adding him to the team's starting rotation in addition to Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and Sidney Ponson.

"Obviously, he's a great competitor," Miller said. "Apparently, he's a lot like Scottie Erickson in his work ethic -- always well-conditioned. I just feel like we've got another quality guy."

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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