Big League Pressure Should Not Affect Guilmet In Goodyear
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the Spring Invitees with a chance to make the Tribe’s Opening Day roster.
By Mike Brandyberry
You can’t simulate pressure and you certainly can’t predict how a player will handle pressure when it is in front of him, but to date, Preston Guilmet has handled all the pressure in the path of his minor league development.
Now, Guilmet has the pressure of his first big league Spring Training. The tall right-handed, relief pitcher will have an opportunity early in the Tribe’s camp to impress the big league coaching staff. With Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez preparing for the World Baseball Classic—and hoping to make a long run with Team USA—extra opportunity becomes available for some of the Indians’ younger relievers.
For most minor leaguers, their first big league camp could be daunting, but Guilmet has faced pressure throughout his professional career. A ninth round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Arizona, the Indians converted Guilmet to relief pitcher after 15 starts at Mahoning Valley.
A closer for three years, Guilmet has closed two championship seasons. In 2010, Guilmet was on the mound for the Low-A, Lake County Captains to close out their Midwest League Championship. Last September, Guilmet was again on the mound closing out the Double-A Akron Aeros’ Eastern League Championship. Two championships in three years is an admirable feat for any closer, especially one adjusting to life as a professional closer and the grind of a long season.
“It’s always a competitive atmosphere, especially in the closing role, more than some of the other roles,” Guilmet said. “The pressure is always there. It’s always a competitive situation, which is great. As far as pitching in September, it is the end of a long year, but when you are in a playoff spot, all you think about is winning and getting the whole thing.”
Guilmet’s conversion from amateur starting pitcher to professional closer has taken work, but it hasn’t been noticeable in his statistics. His 2.39 ERA in 2012 at Akron was his highest as a relief pitcher and he saved 11 games at Lake County in 2010, 35 games at Kinston in 2011 and 24 a year ago with the Aeros. However, Guilmet says his success has not been as easy as it has appeared.
“It’s always a grind, no matter what you do or how it looks,” Guilmet said. “If you ask any guy, they’ll probably say the same thing. For me, I just go out there and working hard, take care of business, take the game seriously and develop a good routine. Then trust yourself to go out there and do what the majority of us have done for most of our life.”
One time that Guilmet was unable to close was during his time in the Arizona Fall League. Guilmet had Padres’ farmhand, Brad Boxberger and Reds’ lefty, Aroldis Chapman. Guilmet did struggle in his 14 appearances, compiling an ERA of 6.43, but felt he the experience was enjoyable.
“You get to meet a lot of different guys, with a lot of different backgrounds,” Guilmet said. “Some guys you’ve played against or with, in the past. Just to be able to come together with those guys and the Fall League is so much fun because it is such competitive baseball. Because it’s not in the middle of the season, there’s that laid back atmosphere to it where you can just go out and enjoy the game and really compete.”
Despite all of his minor league success, Guilmet will have to really compete if he hopes to make the Indians. While the Tribe may be a little weak on the left side of the bullpen, the right side is extremely full with Perez, Pestano, Joe Smith, Cody Allen and newcomers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. It seems unlikely that the Indians’ bullpen will have room for six right-handed relievers and each may currently be ahead of Guilmet to make the roster.
It is likely Guilmet will open the season at Triple-A Columbus as the Clippers’ closer. It would be the last stop through the Tribe’s minor league system. The 6-2, righty—who throws a fastball, slider and split finger, with a deceptive over-the-top delivery—will likely be one of the first calls if an injury happens or a reliever struggles. Whether Guilmet defies the odds and makes the Indians’ roster or he waits for a mid-season call up, he likely will handle the big league pressure when he gets his chance.
In the meantime, Guilmet continues to control what he can and stay prepared for his chance with the Indians. His key to success seems simple.
“Just keep locating pitches,” Guilmet said. “That’s the key to most anyone’s success. Locate good pitches, use your fastball and stay ahead in the count.”
Photo: Mathew White/DTTWLN photographer