The Accidental Blue Jay
When the Blue Jays are on the road, pitcher Juan Guzman, a fitness fanatic, can often be found on off days running the steps of the opposing team's stadium in the middle of the afternoon. " Milwaukee is my favorite stadium to run," says Guzman. "The steps are very big. They make you work harder. I like working a lot. That way, if I don't pitch well, I can't say that I didn't try hard enough."
When has he not pitched well? Guzman, 25, has had one of the most-successful starts to a major league career of any pitcher in history. He was called up to the majors in June of last year and. after losing his first two starts, won 10 straight games to finish 10-3. This season he was 5-0 through Sunday, and he could have been 8-0 with better bullpen support—he left with a lead in his three no-decisions. Those are extraordinary stats for a player who was 41-40 in 6� seasons in the minors.
"He's got good stuff," says Toronto reliever Duane Ward. "When he doesn't have his good stuff, he still has good stuff."
Guzman consistently throws 95 mph, but the key to his success is how his pitches move. "It's natural movement." he says. "It's very hard to hit."
Indeed, no one is hitting it. At week's end Guzman had a 2.06 ERA, and opposing batters were hitting only .184 against him. His fastball can either sink or sail—so much so that Seattle second baseman Harold Reynolds recently said, "He throws that high fastball and gets a lot of pop-ups. He throws that splitter, and you swing and miss."
Guzman smiled when he heard that. "That's my slider," he said. "I don't throw a splitter."
When he's not running stadium steps, Guzman works on his pitching motion, sometimes without even throwing a ball. He likens these sessions to shadowboxing. "I do it just to make sure I don't forget how," he says.
Guzman is from Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, the same city as Dodger ace Ramon Martinez. Had it not been for a trade that almost didn't take place, the two would probably be on the same staff today. Guzman toiled ineffectively in the Dodger chain for three seasons, and when L.A. needed backup infield help, it traded Guzman to the Blue Jays in September 1987 for infielder Mike Sharperson.
The deal turned into a steal for the Jays, "but he wasn't the guy we wanted from the Dodgers," according to Toronto general manager Pat Gillick, who thought the Blue Jays had the option of taking either Guzman or shortstop Jose Offerman for Sharperson. Dodger general manager Fred Claire insisted that the decision of whether the Blue Jays should get Guzman or Offerman belonged to L.A., and he wouldn't give up Offerman. Toronto assistant general manager Gord Ash finally convinced Gillick that Claire was right. If he hadn't, Gillick was ready to call off the trade.