Guerra's remarkable journey takes him to win column

Guerra's remarkable journey takes him to win column

MILWAUKEE -- In this sabermetric age, they say pitcher wins don't matter.

Good luck convincing Junior Guerra of that.

Called up by the Brewers to help a sagging starting rotation, Guerra pitched six respectable innings for his first Major League victory in his first Major League start, a 5-4 Milwaukee triumph over the Angels on Tuesday night at Miller Park. Guerra fell into a 4-0 deficit in the third, then kept the Halos at bay for three more innings while Brewers hitters powered a comeback.

It was a victory many miles in the making.

"There's a lot of feelings there," Guerra said.

Suspended in 2008 under Minor League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Guerra was out of affiliated baseball from 2009-14, pitching everywhere from Mexico to South America to Europe to Independent leagues in the U.S. before resurfacing last season with the White Sox. He pitched his way all the way to the Majors for three relief appearances and drew notice from the Brewers, who claimed Guerra off waivers in new general manager David Stearns' first roster move.

Stearns analyzes the roster

The Brewers promoted Guerra this week to replace former first-round Draft pick Taylor Jungmann, who was optioned to Triple-A after a series of poor starts.

"It is unique, for sure," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I think it is perseverance. At times for him, this must have felt really far away. It is a real credit to him."

Did Guerra contemplate his long journey in the run-up to his Brewers debut?

"The only thing I was thinking about was throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters, going batter by batter, inning to inning," Guerra said.

And after the game?

"It's a long road, but I just have to be thankful," Guerra said. "I have to thank God that I'm here. Now I have to get ready for my next start and get ready to do it again."

He will pitch next on Sunday in Cincinnati. Against the Angels, Guerra fell behind after Albert Pujols' long RBI single in the first inning and Mike Trout's two-run single in a three-run third, but settled down after that.

In six innings, Guerra was charged with four earned runs on seven hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. He threw just 72 pitches, but Counsell opted to use the late-inning formula of Michael Blazek, Tyler Thornburg and Jeremy Jeffress to finish the game.

Jeffress picks up the save

Blazek worked into, and out of, a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh inning, and Jeffress logged his seventh save in as many chances.

"A guy's first big league win, you want to do everything you can to get that for him," Blazek said. "There was a little extra to get that job done."

Blazek gets out of a jam

After the game, Guerra was eagerly awaiting a conversation with his wife and daughter in Venezuela. That phone call, he said with a smile, would represent the extent of his celebration.

"I need to go to bed early because we have an early game tomorrow," he said.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.