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I will always think about Angel Guzman the way I wrote about him earlier this year:

Chicago Cubs reliever Angel Guzman has had a cruel, if moderately successful professional career. For years, he was the top pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system – by way of comparison, Guzman was more hyped than either Chris Archer or Trey McNutt, and was so hyped for more than three straight years of development.

But the entire time – and for years thereafter – Guzman was plagued by injuries. Elbows. Shoulders. Forearms. Guzman was the picture of un-health. His future as an ace was effectively derailed, and few thought he would meaningfully contribute at the big league level.

And then 2009 happened. Guzman was a revelation out of the Cubs’ pen, throwing 55 relatively healthy innings of sub-3.00 ERA. He was easily the Cubs’ best reliever, and was being heavily counted on last year. But then his shoulder gave way, and he didn’t throw a pitch in 2010. The words “career threatening” were applied liberally.

From there, Guzman worked his way back to pitching in professional games – in High-A ball (modestly successful, too) – but couldn’t quite make it back to the bigs with the Cubs this year. He was always a guy you found it easy to root for in a Cubs uniform. He worked as hard as anyone, overcame the death of his brother, and kept coming back in blue time and time again. It was an inspirational, if sad, story.

But that story has ended, at least with the Cubs. Guzman won’t be back with the Cubs even if his story continues, and he does make the bigs in 2012.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed Guzman, 30, to a minor league deal, which includes an invitation to Spring Training. There, he’ll try to do what he couldn’t do with the Cubs in 2010 and 2011 – come back. I wouldn’t put it past him, as he’s come back many times before. I hope he makes it.

Guzman signed as a minor league free agent with the Cubs this past year, and why he was not brought back to the Cubs’ system for 2012 is a matter on which we’ll probably never have perfect clarity. The implication is that the new guys in charge (and those below them) don’t feel Guzman could come back this time around, or perhaps don’t have the same large heart as the previous administration. Again, the truth of the matter will probably never be for us to know.

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