CINCINNATI (AP) -Eddie Guardado knows the numbers. He's painfully aware of how many pitches have wandered over the middle of the plate, then been redirected toward those gaps between the outfielders.
Tough to watch. Tough to take.
``It's been happening every time I've been out there,'' the Cincinnati Reds reliever said Tuesday. ``That's the frustrating part. You feel good. For the first time in a long time, you go out and pitch without pain, but the results aren't what you want them to be.''
It's too early to tell whether this is just another difficult phase in his comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery, or an indication of how things are going to be for the 36-year-old left-hander once known as ``Everyday Eddie.''
He had surgery last Sept. 8 to rebuild his pitching elbow, the first significant arm injury of his career. After one minor setback during his comeback, he made it back to the majors on Aug. 7.
Once he started facing major league hitters again, he realized that the elbow is sound but the delivery is messed up. Really messed up.
Guardado has been hit hard in his five appearances, giving up 12 hits and 10 runs in four innings. He allowed three runs Monday night, including a two-run homer by Andruw Jones, in Atlanta's 14-4 victory.
``It's embarrassing as a player and as a competitor,'' he said, a day later. ``You've been pitching this long and you can't find your location.''
After being away from the mound for so long, he's having trouble throwing the ball where he wants consistently. And every mistake is getting hit hard.
``It's almost like learning how to pitch, to a certain extent,'' interim manager Pete Mackanin said. ``He seems to get ahead of hitters and can't put them away because he can't locate (the next pitch).''
Trainers have reassured Guardado that this is a normal phase in recovering from major surgery - it takes time to regain that touch.
``You want to get back to where you were quick, and that's not going to happen,'' Guardado said. ``I know that it's a process. I'm going to take my lumps right now. Hopefully as I get out there more, it will be better and better.''
He gained his reputation for day-to-day reliability while saving 183 games for Minnesota, Seattle and Cincinnati. The Reds have stuck with him during his comeback, hoping he could fit into a bullpen that needs a lot of help.
Mackanin plans to keep using Guardado in lopsided games, giving him a chance to work things out.
``If he's going to be useful in the future, he needs to pitch now,'' Mackanin said. ``So we'll just pick our spots.''
Guardado thinks that a few solid appearances would go a long way toward getting him on track.
``I'm pitching pain-free, but I'm not feeling comfortable out there,'' he said. ``When you get the ball and approach the mound, there's a presence you feel about yourself, which I don't have right now.''
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