CORAL GABLES — Miami closer Carlos Gutierrez wants to get hurt this weekend.
Not injured, just hurt, in the best possible way he can imagine. He wants to be enveloped in a huge celebratory mass of humanity, teammates jumping all over him after securing that final out, at the end of best-of-three Super Regional series that starts tonight between the Hurricanes — the No. 1 seed in the NCAA field — and Arizona.
"Other people might not mind having it be a 10-0 blowout," Gutierrez said. "But I want to be out there and be the guy on the bottom of that pile."
See, that pile would mean Gutierrez and the Hurricanes are heading back to Omaha and the College World Series, the site of maybe his most forgettable moment in a Miami uniform.
"It would mean a lot to get back," Gutierrez said. "There's a lot of guys on this team who were there two years ago. We all know what it takes to get there. So we need to take care of business right now, have it be business as usual, and then we can get to the place we've been trying to reach all year."
And getting there would give Gutierrez a long-awaited chance for redemption.
It was June 20, 2006. Gutierrez's elbow was a medical mess and would require him to have ligament replacement surgery — the procedure known as Tommy John surgery — when the season ended. But the Hurricanes were in a win-or-go-home situation against Oregon State at the CWS, and Gutierrez was assured that pitching couldn't make his injury any worse.
"It was feeling a little bit better and wasn't bothering me," Gutierrez said. "I thought I could go."
So did Miami coach Jim Morris, whose pitching was so ravaged that he was desperate for any solution.
"Our doctor said it was fine," Morris said. "He wanted to pitch and he was our best guy. He was our ace at the time."
Morris gave Gutierrez the start, even though he hadn't pitched in a month because of the tender elbow. Gutierrez got rocked, giving up four runs in two innings. The Hurricanes lost 8-1 and went home; Oregon State went on to the win the national championship.
Soon after, Gutierrez's right elbow was rebuilt. He missed the 2007 season while rehabbing, and then this fall was approached by Hurricanes pitching coach J.D. Arteaga about becoming Miami's closer.
Gutierrez didn't think twice.
He went 5-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 34 appearances, with 12 saves. The 6-foot-3 right-hander has been throwing in the mid 90s (several mph faster than he was pre-Tommy John), with a devastating sinker — and was so impressive this season that he went in the first round of Thursday's Major League Baseball draft, getting picked 27th overall by the Twins.
"He worked so hard to get back for this year," Miami outfielder Dennis Raben said. "I know it was very difficult for him and for the team last year when we didn't have him. Tommy John is a difficult thing for anyone to go through, especially a guy like Carlos. He's a captain on this team and everyone looks at him as a leader. … He's a warrior."