Twins Still See Potential In Oft-Battered Guerra





FORT MYERS, Fla.—Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey all are long gone, and even the players acquired for them— J.J. Hardy and Jon Rauch—are former Twins.

So three years after Minnesota traded ace Johan Santana to the Mets, the four-for-one deal officially can be labeled a bust, can't it?

"I know that's what people say," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said, "but we still see major league potential" in righthander Deolis Guerra, the last man standing from the February 2008 deal. "We haven't given up on Deolis at all."

That's a remarkable statement seeing as Guerra went 2-13, 6.36 in 24 appearances last year—and performed just as poorly after a demotion to Double-A. In his brief time at Triple-A Rochester, the 6-foot-5 Venezuelan allowed five home runs in just 25 innings.

The Twins emphasize one caveat before reading too much into Geurra's numbers.

"I don't want to minimize the problems he's had, but let's remember this is a 21-year-old kid," Radcliff said. "We've got 21-year-olds in rookie ball, but he's already got a couple of years (of) experience at Double-A."

Radcliff says that ruefully. Guerra already had pitched at the high Class A level for two seasons when the Twins acquired him as an 18-year-old, and they didn't want to move him backward. Radcliff thinks that Guerra has been promoted too aggressively, and that he's been pitching in leagues beyond his ability level.

He still has the raw tools of a future big league player, the Twins believe. The team's scouts rate Guerra's changeup as a plus pitch, and his slider isn't far behind. He hasn't learned how to use his fastball, however, a pitch that can climb into the low 90s.

"This is a big year for him," Radcliff said, happy that the Guerra showed up to camp in good physical shape. "If he can figure out how his fastball plays, we still see him making big strides. People have already written him off, but he's still going to get better, maybe a lot better."

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins signed 17-year-old Dominican righthander Felix Jorge, reportedly for a signing bonus of $250,000.

• Rochester third baseman Luke Hughes hit a double in the deciding game of the Australian Baseball League championship series, helping Perth win the league's inaugural title against Adelaide.