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TJ recovery helped Guerrieri grow up

Righty prospect forced to find work ethic, new perspective in aftermath of surgery
MLB.com @wwchastain

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Count Taylor Guerrieri among the many waiting in that long blue line of Rays starting pitchers.

"It's tough," the Rays' right-hander said. "You look at other organizations and think, 'Maybe I could pitch there.' Or, 'Maybe I could do this.' But at the end of the day, the Rays know what they're doing. They've had a lot of success with the team for a reason.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Count Taylor Guerrieri among the many waiting in that long blue line of Rays starting pitchers.

"It's tough," the Rays' right-hander said. "You look at other organizations and think, 'Maybe I could pitch there.' Or, 'Maybe I could do this.' But at the end of the day, the Rays know what they're doing. They've had a lot of success with the team for a reason.

"They develop guys really well. It is a slow-paced organization when it comes to developing pitchers especially. But it's something you just have to deal with and hope for the best at the end of the day."

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Guerrieri, 24, once moved on the fast track. After the Rays selected him in the first round of the 2011 Draft, he got busy. Using a refined curveball, he made the process of retiring hitters look easy. But he had some growing up to do.

"It's tough being a high draft pick and coming in and not really knowing what to expect in certain situations," Guerrieri said. "Coping with it when I was young, I don't think I coped with it very well. And I think I had a lot of growing up to do over the years."

Tommy John surgery in 2013 knocked Guerrieri back a peg.

"That really forced me to find a work ethic that I didn't have before," Guerrieri said. "I learned to take what I do seriously. I think before Tommy John, I was just going about my business the wrong way. Not doing everything I could to take care of my body.

"After Tommy John, I kind of realized this is my career and I have to do everything I can to protect it. So I really started to develop a good work ethic. I've had two healthy seasons since then, and hopefully just keep it going. My dad always instilled hard work in me. But it was something I never wanted to go through again, so it was self-motivation, really."

Guerrieri, whom MLBPipeline ranks as the Rays' No. 18 prospect, feels as though he's back on track, even if he did spend the entire 2016 season at Double-A Montgomery.

"It was frustrating, but I wasn't very deserving based on the arms we had in [Triple-A] Durham," Guerrieri said. "I was kind of out of it last year in many ways, mechanically, mostly. I'm looking for a bounceback year."

Rays manager Kevin Cash likes what he's seen of Guerrieri.

"He worked on his [velocity], getting that boosted up a little bit," Cash said. "He knows his strengths, and that's putting the ball in play and letting his infield make plays behind him. I think anytime you see a young pitcher with a really good pitch, they want to see guys swing and missing. He's maybe more accepting now of letting guys put it in play and get some quick outs."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Taylor Guerrieri