By Marc Lancaster
Post staff reporter
ST. LOUIS - The very thought of declaring himself unavailable to pitch for a particular game runs counter to every instinct Eddie Guardado has.
But the Reds' closer is inching closer to accepting that he'll have to take that approach the rest of the year. He beat himself up verbally after Sunday's game in Philadelphia, saying he hurt the team by pitching after his troublesome left forearm tightened up on him. He knows he can't do that anymore, but he has a hard time voluntarily putting himself on the sidelines when the team needs him the most.
"I feel like crap," he said Tuesday. "We're here, we're in a pennant race, they brought me over here in a pennant race to do my job, and when you have to be monitored it's not a good thing."
Guardado will be monitored from this point forward, but as much as his forearm has nagged him, it remains unpredictable. He said it felt fine before Sunday's game, fine when he was warming up in the bullpen, then locked up on him on the third pitch he threw after entering the game.
"You can't pitch that way," Guardado said. "No matter how much you try, it's not happening."
Guardado gave up three hits and two unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Phillies to tie the score. He also struck out three batters. But he never really knew where the ball was going.
When his forearm tightens up, it feels like a ball a little ways below his elbow. He said it keeps him from extending his arm and finishing his pitches - and it happens no matter what pitch he's trying to throw.
"I'm cutting everything off and it floats away or it floats back over the plate," he said. "Not where you want to be."
Reds trainer Mark Mann has told Guardado the only treatment that will clear everything up is rest, and that isn't an option Guardado is considering right now. So the only remaining solution is moderation, and manager Jerry Narron said the Reds will take that route.
"I think the one thing we just have to be careful of is making sure that he's healthy," Narron said. "He's going to say he's available every day even though he might not be available. It's going to be up to us to pick some days that we close with somebody else."
The Reds won't say anything in advance on the days Guardado isn't available. They'll just save David Weathers, Todd Coffey or Bill Bray for the inning(s) Guardado would normally work.
All the while, both the team and the veteran pitcher will be hoping he can continue to contribute on a regular basis, even if it is less often than he would like.
"It's killing me," said Guardado. "But I've got to be smart and not hurt myself and not hurt the team."
"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax