SARASOTA, Fla. - Vladimir Guerrero relied on his agent, Fernando Cuza, to serve as an interpreter during his 20-minute press conference, but I’m sure he understood every word. He’s been speaking English to teammates and team officials. He’s just more comfortable dealing with the media in his native language.
Here are some comments from Guerrero, which came after he slipped on his white No. 27 jersey.
On whether his past success at Camden Yards, and the Orioles’ surge under manager Buck Showalter, influenced his decision to sign with them:
“Definitely that had something to do with it, knowing the way the team was playing and the park. And at the time, I was unemployed.”
On whether he can repeat his success at Texas last season:
“Hopefully, God willing, I’m going to have a healthy, productive year. I’d like to stay in the lineup like I did last year. If I stay in the lineup, I feel like I can be very productive.”
On his impressions of his new teammates:
“I’ve only been here a couple days, so I haven’t had a chance to meet a lot of people here. But the people I have met, I’ve been feeling that. I’ve been feeling very much at home. They are like family here.”
On whether he has a chip on his shoulder:
“No. I just want to stay healthy. I know if I stay healthy, I’m going to have a good year.”
On whether he’s considering retirement after this season:
“No I haven’t thought about retirement yet. My whole mindset is to have a good year, continue playing and if I stay healthy and things keep going well for me, I’m going to continue playing.”
On whether he has any numerical goals?
“Five-hundred home runs is definitely something I’m after. And whatever comes after that.”
Here’s president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail talking about the negotiations:
“I think Fern did a good job convincing me what it was going to take to get him here. I was concerned, from other clubs’ standpoint, who might jump in maybe later. Maybe somebody who wasn’t involved now could get involved later. And the more we looked at our lineup, talked to Peter, talked to Buck, it was clear that, really Vlad would make us, we thought, pretty solid one through nine. So our interest actually increased, and in a lot of respects, we sort of made a preemptive move to take him off the market at that time before another market for him started to develop.”
“This is kind of a fun way to wake up in the morning when you know you’ve got this announcement pending in the afternoon. It’s rare when you get a chance to introduce someone who has had over 10 seasons of 100-plus RBIs, he’s been an MVP award winner, lifetime .320 hitter. And I can’t remember in recent memory where we’ve made a signing that has generated as much enthusiasm as this one has, not just among our fan base, which is obviously important, but our entire organization, not the least of which is our players. I’ve been told and seen a little bit some of the wide-eyes amusement and the wide-eyed amazement that our players have shown when Vlad has come on, and how excited they are to have him. And I would be remiss if I really did not thank ownership for this. I blew past a couple numbers that we had agreed on and this signing certainly takes us there. I think we’ll have a payroll in excess of $20 million where we were a year ago. This is really ownership’s objective to try to capture and sustain the momentum that we showed when Buck came on board in August and we played with almost a .600 winning percentage. We’re very grateful to Peter and his family to be able to make this announcement today.”
Here’s something from manager Buck Showalter:
“It obviously helps everybody. It kind of gives us a little more of a pass-the-baton situation. It stretches out the lineup. It gives us less breathing spots. Obviously, there are not many guys capable of handling the four hole, three hole, wherever you want to put him. You want to put him at one of those two spots. Right-left, what have you. It gives us a presence in our lineup that we’ve added to from last year. This is kind of not necessarily the finishing touch, but it puts us in position where we have nine spots if everybody’s healthy and it presents a challenge. It doesn’t automatically mean that someone is going to hit better than they did in the past, but it does take the focus off of one spot all the time where someone has to. That’s something we wanted to do in the offseason, get a little bit more of a pass-the-baton mentality.”
Cuza made like Ed Reed and intercepted my question about the market playing out so slowly for a player who hit .300 with 115 RBIs last season.
“Look back at the year he had prior, when he was with Anaheim,” Cuza said. “He took a major pay cut to go from $15 million to doing what he did for Texas. He knew he had to take a pay cut then. He went out there and put up the kind of numbers he did. The DH market this year really didn’t develop the way we expected. He wants to do the same thing for this organization that he did for Texas. He likes challenges. When he went to Texas, they had never won a title for a lot of years. When he left Anaheim for Texas, it was a challenge for him to do that. He views this as an opportunity to do the same. He feels like he can be the missing link here, to all of a sudden take this team from where it was to have it hoping to become a contender. As far as the market developing for us, there were some teams that were in play for him. But for a lot of different reasons, he decided not to pull the trigger when he did.”
And finally, here’s Showalter talking about where he’ll bat Guerrero:
“Let me talk to Vladi first. We just got the ink wet. No, he’s going to hit third or fourth. He’s obviously capable of handling both roles. With some of the other additions we have, we’ll make it all mesh. But I’m probably leaning a little bit more toward four right now, but we’ll wait and see how it develops.
Showalter: “What do you think?
Showalter: “Tell you what, after a lot of consideration, he’ll hit in the four hole.”