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Guardado glad to be going strong

Guardado glad to be going strong

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ARLINGTON -- Rangers reliever Eddie Guardado is not above celebrating the occasional milestone.

He still has the bottle of Dom Perrignon that his teammates gave him after he broke the Twins' single-season saves record. So he allowed himself to enjoy a bit of self-satisfaction when he appeared in his 800th Major League game on Saturday night, pitching two-thirds of an inning in relief in the Rangers' 12-6 loss to the Twins.

"Somebody mentioned it to me," Guardado said on Sunday. "Everybody seemed to know about it but me. But it's pretty nice, pretty special. I just wish it could have been in a better outing. It would have been better if we had won, more fun. But that's the way it goes."

Guardado is the 38th player in Major League history to pitch in 800 games. His first outing was on June 13, 1993, when he started for the Twins against the Oakland Athletics, allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't involved in the decision in the Twins' 7-6 loss.

Guardado, 37, began his career as a starter, making 25 starts, and didn't move to the bullpen until Twins manager Tom Kelly put him there for good in June 1995.

"I had 25 starts, and I guess only two or three were what you would call quality starts," Guardado said. "That's why T.K. said, 'Son, you'll be in the 'pen.' From there, it just stuck."

Guardado became the Twins' primary left-handed setup reliever and in 1996, he led the American League with 83 appearances. They started calling him "Everyday Eddie," and he got a reputation for being tough on left-handers. Ken Griffey Jr. is 2-for-20 lifetime against Guardado, and Jim Thome is 5-for-31 with 19 strikeouts.

"I played with another guy, Jesse Orosco, and he had over 1,000 [career appearances]," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Eddie reminds me of him a lot -- a carefree reliever who is not afraid of anything. He's had injuries, but pitched through them. He really reminds me of Jesse Orosco. They have a lot in common. They have no fear -- just keep winging it up there."

Gardenhire replaced Kelly in 2002 and made Guardado his closer. Guardado had been part of a closer-by-committee approach for a couple of years, but Gardenhire made him the guy in 2002. Guardado went out and set a Twins single-season record by saving 45 games in a season that saw the Twins winning the division title.

"I just took over and had fun with it," Guardado said. "I enjoy pitching. It's been nice. I've been blessed to stay around this long and do some of the things I've done."

Orosco is the all-time leader with 1,252 appearances, and Red Sox right-hander Mike Timlin is the active leader with 1,020 appearances. Guardado is sixth among active players. He likely will quickly move up a couple of spots on the all-time list by passing two Hall of Famers who are just ahead of him, Walter Johnson (802) and Nolan Ryan (807).

Beyond that? It all depends how much longer Guardado pitches.

"I don't know," Guardado said. "We'll see how it goes. But I'll be ready to pitch every day."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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