Right-hander Junior Guerra will make his first Opening Day start for the Brewers next month, according to a team announcement on Saturday. The veteran righty pitched his first full season of big league ball in 2016 and continued to impress in camp with a 1.80 ERA and a working split-finger fastball.
Guerra, 32, spent the better part of the last decade working his way through various farm systems and independent leagues before landing a major league gig with the White Sox in 2015. He was thrust into the bullpen for a three-game stint, then converted to a starting role in the Brewers’ rotation after getting picked up on waivers in the fall of 2015.
In 2016, he surprised the Brewers with a 2.81 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 121 2/3 innings, emerging as one of the steadier arms on their pitching staff and making a compelling case for an encore performance in 2017. According to Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell, some of the right-hander’s success hinged on the split-finger fastball that he’d been developing over the last several years. Via FOX Sports Wisconsin:
The split-finger, which is really the pitch that makes him dangerous, it by nature that pitch takes a while to get going. It’s a difficult pitch, that’s why a lot of guys don’t throw it,” Counsell said. “In the age of trying to get a swing-and-miss, it’s a big swing-and-miss pitch if you can master it, if you can get a feel for it and get a handle on it.
Guerra is set to take the mound for the Brewers during their home opener against the Rockies on April 3.