Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz

Junior Guerra started out in professional baseball as a catcher.  He was only 18 at the time. His checkerboard career has years when he did not even play. And, he has never been an Opening Day starting pitcher.

Until now.

As one of the American Association’s most distinguished graduates since he spent the 2011 and 2013 seasons winning 18 of 25 decisions for the Wichita Wingnuts, all of this is changing.

The 32-year-old Venezuelan native will be Milwaukee’s starting pitcher when the Brewers host Colorado on April 3, following up on his 9-3, 2.81 season when as a rookie he was named the team’s Pitcher of the Year.

Give his wife, Erika, a major assist.

“There was a point I thought I was done playing,” Guerra told  “I got the support from my wife.  She told me to keep going. Keep working hard and the opportunity will come.”

Brewers manager Craig Counsell told the website:  “He pitched really well last year.  I know he had a different story. But for his 120 innings, he was really one of the better starters in the National League. That’s what it boils down to.”

T-Bones’ Kickham Gets Invite From Marlins

The road toward starting the season in the major leagues is not nearly as certain for some of the other American Association grads still in spring training camps, but lefty Mike Kickham, who spent the last three months with the Kansas City T-Bones last season, has suddenly put himself into the mix.

The 28-year-old St. Louis native, who got into 14 games (0-3, 10.98, 3 starts) with San Francisco in ’13 and ’14, dazzled with five strikeouts in two scoreless innings (one hit, no walks) against Washington last weekend. Miami promptly invited him to move up to the major league camp as a non-roster player.

Kickham, 3-5 with a 2.83 ERA  in 14 starts for the T-Bones, has made only that one appearance with the major league Marlins so far this spring. It was a good one.

Oh, That Major League Feeling

Invitations continue to pour in for onetime American Association players with affiliated minor league organizations to experience at least one day with the major league team during spring training.

Even right-hander Chad Nading, who only signed with San Diego recently, got the call.  He posted a 1.83 ERA in 40 games at Wichita last season.  Others getting this joy include:

Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003.  He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog,, and his book, “The Passion of Baseball”, came out in October and is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at


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