|The Twins reacquired rubber-armed lefthanded reliever Eddie Guardado, whom they originally drafted nearly 20 years ago, in a trade that sent Rookie-ball righthander Mark Hamburger to the Rangers.|
|The Big Leaguer|
|Guardado, 37, has been consistently effective for 16 big league seasons, tenure that few other middle relievers can claim. In fact, just five active pitchers have made more than Guardado’s 852 career appearances (just 25 starts), and now that Mike Stanton and Mike Myers have called it quits, Guardado ranks tops among active lefties in games. A Twins draft-and-follow as a 21st-round pick in 1990, Guardado spent his first 11 big league season with the Twins, making two all-star teams and pitching for Minnesota in the 2002 and 2003 postseasons. Sentimentality wasn’t the reason the Twins brought him back, though. The crafty lefty went 3-3, 3.65 for the Rangers this season, with 28 strikeouts, 17 walks and just three home runs allowed (despite being a pronounced fly-ball pitcher) in 49 2/3 innings. A classic guts-and-guile reliever, Guardado attacks hitters with a fastball, slider and changeup.|
|The Twins signed Hamburger, 21, in June 2007 after he participated in a tryout at the Metrodome. Born in Shoreview, Minn., and an attendee of Mesabi (Minn.) CC, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound righthander was selected to the Rookie-level Appalachian League’s postseason all-star team as its relief pitcher. He led the league with 13 saves and 27 games, going 1-2, 4.17 with 40 strikeouts and 13 walks in 36 2/3 innings for Elizabethton. Hamburger posted a 1.50 ERA in 15 Gulf Coast League innings last season. Athletic with a true power arm, he pitches at 89-95 mph with run and sink, and his 84 mph slider features quick, late bite. Hamburger has little in the way of a changeup at this point, but he may not need one as a reliever, the role at which he best profiles.|
|Guardado is a real asset against lefthanded batters, who have managed to hit just .167/.233/.288 against him this season—but seeing as he’s no slouch against righthanded batters, he figures to see plenty late-game, high-leverage action. He joins lefties Dennys Reyes and Craig Breslow in a Twins bullpen that is doing its part to keep the team in the thick of the AL Central race.
While Rookie-ball relievers are generally not the most sought-after trade commodity, the ranks of past Elizabethton closers does include both Pat Neshek and Tim Lahey, which is something to keep in mind in evaluating Hamburger. Neshek, of course, broke through with the Twins in 2006 in a sensational rookie campaign; Lahey, a converted catcher out of Princeton who has settled in Triple-A Rochester’s bullpen, went first overall to the Rays in last December’s major league Rule 5 draft.