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Dodgers middle reliever Matt Guerrier shows his worth

April 30, 2011 |  7:44 pm

Matt-guerrier_300 Matt Guerrier did not arrive having to justify his signing -- three years and $12 million for a 32-year-old middle reliever on a Dodgers team that screamed for offensive help? -- though his first month has made for pretty convincing justification.

In Guerrier’s first 12 appearances, he has allowed earned runs exactly once. The right-hander had one ugly outing when he gave up five earned runs in Chicago on April 23 but otherwise has thrown nothing but zeroes.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hadn’t seen him pitch since he was last with the Yankees in 2007 and Guerrier was still starting out.

"I didn’t know really what to expect, but he’s impressive," Mattingly said. "I like Matt because he’s always under control. He never seems to  be rattled."

Not there that there’s been much to rattle him thus far. Aside from that one game in Wrigley Field, the only time Guerrier has struggled as a Dodger was during spring training. In nine spring games, he had a 6.00 earned-run average.

It looked a lot like the new guy on the team trying to justify a big contract, but Guerrier said it was hardly that.

Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt "asked about that, but I didn’t feel like that was the case," Guerrier said. "It may have been a little bit of the opposite. I came in thinking, 'I’m not going to try and impress. I’m not going to try and do too much.'

"Maybe I took it too easy. I just felt like it was going to be there and took it easy throwing as I got into the spring. Toward the end, middle I kind of got after it more on the mound and tried to get more out of it."

Guerrier's contract followed that of a pair of other reliable middle reliever signings: Joaquin Benoit signed with the Tigers for three years at $16.5 million, and the Angels signed Scott Downs for three years at $15 million. Currently, Benoit has a 6.10 ERA and Downs has been on the disabled list twice with a broken toe and food poisoning.

Guerrier (2-1, 3.14 ERA) may have had fortuitous timing as a free agent, but so far he is paying dividends.

"Benoit kind of set the tone early with the huge deal he signed in Detroit," Guerrier said. "From then on, I think teams started to value extra arms in the pen. See what it does for teams that have a lot of options late in the games. When you start to have three, four options late in the game it makes it a shorter game."

Guerrier appeared in over 70 games in each of the past four seasons for the Twins. His 14 1/3 innings pitched leads all Dodgers relievers. He can throw multiple pitches, making him effective against right- and left-handed batters.

"He’s not an overpowering kind of guy, but he has weapons from both sides," Mattingly said. "He has weapons. If they have holes, he has a chance to get it there. He locates."

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers reliever Matt Guerrier pitches in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on April 3. Kirby Lee/ US Presswire