Tayron Guerrero Keeps Defying The Odds

Marlins Prospect Report

Tayron Guerrero pitched for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. (Getty Images)

Colombia native and Double-A Jacksonville righthander Tayron Guerrero remembers feeling terrified.

For a six-week period when he was 17, Guerrero would get up at 5:30 a.m. to take a boat ride out of his remote village, the town of Bocachica on an island called Isla de Tierra Bomba.

The 20-minute ferry took him to Cartagena, one of the larger cities in Colombia, where he practiced basketball until noon and then baseball until late at night.

Since the ferry stopped service at 6 p.m., Guerrero was forced to take a smaller boat and then walk through the woods for two hours before making it back to Bocachica.

“I wouldn't get home until midnight, and I could hear the owls and I could see some snakes," Guerrero said in Spanish. “All I had was a stick in my hand to cut through the grass, which reached up to my ribs.

“I would talk to God the whole way home, and I still use that as motivation every day, so that I can be successful and take my family out of Bocachica."

Guerrero's daily and dangerous trek through the woods stopped when the Padres signed him to a contract in December 2009. He was 18 at the time, and his experimentation with basketball ended immediately.

Guerrero was 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds at the time, and he threw 83 mph. Now he is 6-foot-8 and 217 pounds, and the 26-year-old reliever topped out at 102 mph last year.

“(The Padres) started teaching me the proper form," said Guerrero, who got a late start in baseball at age 16. “They told me how to fix my mechanics."

It worked.

Guerrero made the 2014 Futures Game. He faced one batter and struck out Peter O'Brien on three pitches--fastball, sinker, slider.

Guerrero returns to the Futures Game this season for a game that will be played at Marlins Park, his future home after the Marlins traded for him last July. In that five-player deal, Miami shipped 2015 first-rounder Josh Naylor and starter Jarred Cosart to the Padres for starter Andrew Cashner and Guerrero.

Last year, as a member of the Padres organization, Guerrero made his major league debut. He got Giants all-star catcher Buster Posey--the first batter he faced--out on one pitch.

“I was nervous when they told me I was going in," Guerrero said. “When I saw that it was Posey--wow. I have so much respect for him. When I got him to pop out, it was a grand happiness."

Guerrero allowed one run in two innings during that appearance and was soon returned to the minors. Then he was traded.

That, too, was good news. The Marlins are the team of his dreams, in part because Miami is just a short plane ride to Cartagena and then the ferry trip to Bocachica, a poor town of 9,000 in which there are no cars, no roads and no running water.

Most everyone walks, and those who use motorcycles have to take the boat ride to Cartagena to buy gas.

This year has brought more joy for Guerrero. He represented his country for the first time in his career when he pitched for Colombia against the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

With his parents and two younger sisters having flown in from Colombia, Guerrero pitched a scoreless inning of relief, striking out Jean Segura and Carlos Santana and retiring Manny Machado on a warning-track fly ball to get out of a jam.

Guerrero, who has struck out 13.3 batters per nine innings through his first 19 appearances this season, said the WBC is one of his career highlights.

“I had so many emotions," he said. “I was representing my country for the first time, my family was there, and I was in Marlins Park, where I dream that I will be playing for a long time."