Guardado reluctant All-Star
Twins' reliever doesn't feel like he belongs
By Gordon Wittenmyer
Eddie Guardado still can't make his all-star selection feel right.
One year ago, Guardado and Twins teammates Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski shared a charter flight--and first-place laughs--with Seattle's all-stars as they jetted from the final game before the break in Seattle to Milwaukee for the All-Star Game.
But last Saturday in Anaheim, in the same clubhouse in which the Twins gathered when eliminated from the postseason in October, Guardado quietly met with pitching coach Rick Anderson to ask if there was a way to bow out of this year's All-Star Game. Seriously, he said, he didn't feel right about going.
"Naw," Anderson said, "come on."
It took Anderson and pitcher LaTroy Hawkins to talk him out of taking it further.
Which is just the way the season has gone for Guardado. He couldn't even quit the All-Star Game right.
"Don't get me wrong. Being an all-star, that's great," said Guardado, the only Twin to make it after the team had three first-time selections in each of the past two years. "Hawk made a great point: 'You never know when you're going to have another chance again.' But I don't look at those individual things. I'm a team guy, and we're playing like (garbage)."
And, maybe worst of all, this could be the way he goes out in Minnesota.
"I don't want to think about that, man," he said.
The way the team is playing, the way his short-and-sour contract talks with the team went last winter and the way he and Hawkins talked last month about testing the free-agent market, it's hard not to think about it.
"I know one thing, if that ever happens, my little boy, Niko, is going to be a sad cat," Guardado said, rattling off names of teammates' kids whom 6-year-old Niko has grown up around. "For me, my wife -- she'll be a sad cat, too. "Hopefully, that never happens. But if it does, like they say, 'All good things come to an end.' "
This is how upside down the Twins have turned since an almost wire-to-wire division championship and first-round playoff victory last year:
They've won six games in the past month, fallen to third place with 69 games left in the season and discovered more ways to lose than a Timberwolf in May. Less than a year removed from feel-good talk of team chemistry and a tight-knit clubhouse, the Twins could be on the brink of a purge that includes the guy who set a team record with 45 saves last season.
Everything that has come since then has dimmed the bright lights of what could have been a celebration this week in Chicago.
"If we were winning like last year, I'd be more excited," he said.
It didn't help that every question Guardado fielded from the media Monday related to the team's slump.
"But I'm going to make the best of it," he said. "I'm a grown man. I can't be sulking."
Besides, he said, "Like I told guys (Sunday), we've got to keep our chins up. We can get though this. Nobody said it was going to be easy."