Angel Guzman is a star-crossed young man.
Injuries have hampered the development of this talented right-handed Venezuelan hurler throughout his career.
Finally, in 2009, he overcame them, stepping brilliantly into the setup role in Chicago's bullpen.
He struck out 47 and walked just 23 in 61 innings, and he allowed the ninth-lowest line drive rate among Major League relievers, according to fangraphs.com.
Fate intervened again this winter, however, as Guzman's brother and best friend were gunned down by unknown shooters in their increasingly crime-ridden hometown of Caracas. To add to that enormous and inestimable loss, Guzman then found out (upon reporting to Cubs camp) that he would need arthroscopic knee surgery.
The surgery has already been performed, however, and the prognosis looks good. Guzman will begin throwing in two weeks or less, and the team expects him to answer the bell on Opening Day, should it toll for him.
Cubs fans have to hope that assessment proves accurate, and that the fragile Guzman can stay mentally and physically aligned for the full season again. Without him, the team's bullpen looks exceptionally thin.
With him, however, the team would have a solid one-two punch at the back end of their relief corps and a significantly better chance of winning the close games they could not pull out last season. The Cubs went 16-22 in one-run decisions.
Guzman made a key adjustment last season, throwing his slider much more often at the expense of both his fastball and his curve. That certainly helped him keep the ball on the ground and off the fat parts of bats. It likely also aided him in staying healthy.
With any luck, pitching coach Larry Rothschild will drill the same principles into his young charge this spring, and Guzman can again dominate in 2010.
Here are my projected numbers for Guzman:
* 49 games, all in relief
* 58 innings pitched
* 50 strikeouts
* 22 walks
* 1.21 WHIP
* 3.47 ERA
* 3.90 FIP
Those stats would constitute a small regression for Guzman, but after a career year, that is to be expected. If he provides those numbers, the Cubs can expect to stay in games late this season.
Watch for the rest of my 2010 Cubs profiles, which I'll continue to do throughout the rest of the offseason.
Here is a selection of those already done, and a few on the way soon.