Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Junior Guerra and Chaz Roe are not likely to be thought of as among the glamour names in major league baseball.
But now in their 30s–Guerra is 33, Roe will turn 32 this fall–the right-handed pitchers are grinding their way to very respectable major league careers where they also can make their bank accounts and the American Association look good since both were in the league before making their debut in the big time.
Photo: Wichita Wingnuts (Junior Guerra)
Guerra, who started out as a catcher when he was 18 and had not played above Class A when he was at Wichita in 2011 and 2013, did so well during his first lengthy stint in the majors with Milwaukee in 2016 (9-3, 2.81 in 20 starts) that he got the opening day start one year ago only to tumble back to the minors, where he started this season despite a good winter campaign.
The Brewers, who hope to make it to the postseason this year, brought Guerra back before the season was three weeks old and all this Venezuelan native has done is win two of his first three decisions–he had a tough-luck loss at Wrigley Field–and post a terrific 0.82 earned run average for four starts.
Oh, yes, that ERA was the very best in the majors when this week started among those with 20 or more innings of work.
“He’s ironed out his delivery, recovered his lost velocity, and has weaponized his four-seam fastball,” an in-depth analysis by USA Today explained.
Roe has been in eight major league organizations, two of them before he landed at Laredo for the entire American Association season (3-2, 1.47 and 69 strikeouts in 55 innings) six years ago, and he was in the National League with Arizona before the next season had ended. The 6-foot-5 Kentuckian also was with the New York Yankees, Baltimore and Atlanta before ending up with Tampa Bay late last season.
He had only 24 major league appearances in his first decade as a pro; 94 more in the last four years, including 16 so far this season (0-1, 4.63) to give him a career log of 7-3, 3.98.
One thing Roe has yet to conquer is pitching the ninth inning of a winning game although he found himself in that situation earlier this week as the Rays edged Detroit 3-2 to climb within one victory of .500, an unlikely feat after a 1-8 start.
“Absolutely, it’s (ninth inning) a whole different animal,” Roe told The Tampa Bay Times. It was the first time in 117 appearances over six seasons he had been in the ninth inning with a lead of three or fewer runs, writer Marc Topkin pointed out. Roe got a quick out, then hit two batters and allowed a single to load the bases, and bring in a lefty reliever. “When your name is called you rise to the occasion. And I just wasn’t able to make an adjustment with my sinker fast enough.”
Explorers’ Nogowski on Fire in Double
While Sioux City seems to be gearing up for another strong summer, one of last year’s early-season standouts is enjoying an outstanding start with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A Springfield Cardinals.
First baseman John Nogowski is not far off from the .402 pace he set in 34 games with the Explorers before St. Louis grabbed the now-25-year-old late last June, sent him to Springfield and eventually to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League.
Nogowski has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, was Texas League Offensive Player of the Week for the period ending April 29 and has built a .371 average, third best in the league. The righty hitting, lefty throwing former Florida State regular shares first with 25 runs batted in, one more than the number of games he has played. He also shares third in hits (33) and his .424 on-base percentage ranks eighth.
If that is not enough, Nogowski was in the middle of a bizarre, game-ending triple play earlier this week to seal a victory.
Prendergast, Rheault Excel
Former Fargo hurler Zach Prendergast and Dylan Rheault, who was at both Winnipeg and Sioux City, are enjoying strong starts in Class A leagues.
Prendergast is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA at Peoria in the St. Louis farm system and now stands 6-0, 1.81 overall since his contract was purchased last July and Rheault has allowed only two earned runs (both in the same game) in 10 appearances while building a 1.35 ERA with a win in two decisions and a save for San Francisco’s farm club in San Jose.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com for books or Kindle readers, or for autographed copies at www.WirzandAssociates.com.