Guardado hopes to have impact with Nationals

Left-hander Eddie Guardado said Tuesday he signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals because they showed the most interest in acquiring his services.
The Nationals have been interested in Guardado, 39, since the Winter Meetings. According to a baseball source, team scouts told general manager Mike Rizzo that Guardado would be a big help to the club.

Nicknamed “Everyday Eddie,” Guardado is considered a workhorse out of the bullpen. During his 17 seasons in the big leagues, he has played in 908 games and saved 187 of them. He is best known for his years as the Twins’ closer. His best season was in 2002, when he saved 45 games and posted a 2.93 ERA.

If he makes the team out of Spring Training, Guardado knows what his main role will be with the club: become a mentor to the young relievers. 

“I have to try to teach these kids to be strong mentally. If they are strong mentally, they are going to last in the Major Leagues a long time,” he said.  

Guardado would like to close games like he did with the Twins and Mariners, but he will most likely become a setup man. Brian Bruney and Matt Caps are expected to battle for the closer role.

“The Nationals came at me like they really wanted me,” Guardado said. “They respect what I’ve done in the game and they respect me as a person. They are giving me a chance to get in there late in the game, getting my inning that I like — either pitch the seventh through the ninth.

“The Nationals came to me with open arms and I really respect that. I said, “You know what: I kind of like that idea. They are giving me a chance to close again. I still have the heart to play. That’s the biggest thing.” 

After the 2009 season ended, Guardado suspected is career was over. While he enjoyed his time with the Rangers, Guardado didn’t pitch in the late innings and the younger relievers such as Frank Francisco and C.J. Wilson were pitching better.

“The Rangers gave me an opportunity. I loved helping those young guys, but I really didn’t have a role last year,” Guardado said. “In your mind, you are thinking, ‘Maybe this is it. This is the last straw.'”

While sitting at home in California, his wife, Lisa, asked Eddie if he was sure he was finished with baseball. Guardado wasn’t sure. Later in the offseason, he decided to give baseball another shot, thanks to the Nationals.

“I’m always competitive no matter what. I pitch with my heart. That’s what I go by,” Guardado said. “I believe in myself. I have something left. I think I have a big heart. I’m not trying to brag, but I can spread it all over that clubhouse and have some fun with it — teach these guys how to accept the game and play the game the right way.”  

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