It's gone wrong for Guerrero

J.J. Hardy has now homered in nine consecutive series and reached base in 31 of 34 games since May 21.

Does missing a month with an oblique injury deny him an All-Star berth? He sure looks like a deserving candidate.

Not much information came out of yesterday's pregame session with manager Buck Showalter. It wasn't his fault. It was just a slow day.

I did find it interesting that Showalter admitted to having some concerns about the lack of production from the cleanup spot. And those worries are aimed directly at Vladimir Guerrero, since he's batted fourth in 67 of 76 games.

Vladi-batting-white-tall-shrunk.jpgGuerrero is hitting .282, but he's accumulated only four extra-base hits (two doubles and two homers) in his last 33 games. He hasn't gone deep since June 12. He's hit two homers since April 28. He's totaled 28 RBIs all season.

Last night, he grounded to first base to strand Nick Markakis at third in the opening inning, grounded to short on the first pitch thrown to him to end the third inning after Adam Jones walked, singled to right field with two outs in the sixth and grounded to short to end the eighth after Jones' RBI double. He's hitting .226 with runners in scoring position.

He's not exactly cleaning up in the fourth spot.

"Yeah, but Vladdy, we all know, he's not conventional. You keep trying to trust that, if there's such a thing," Showalter said.

"If we have to make an adjustment at some point, we will. We'll see how it goes between now and the All-Star break."

Guerrero batted .319 with 20 homers, 75 RBIs and a .919 OPS in the first half last season, and .278 with nine homers, 40 RBIs and a .748 OPS in the second half.

When your numbers decline and you're 36 years old, people start to whisper.

Guerrero went 3-for-4 with a double on June 16 in Toronto. The next day marked the beginning of six straight games without a designated hitter - three in Washington and three in Pittsburgh.

Did Guerrero cool down during that period?

"I can't say that for sure, but I will tell you it wasn't like he was doing anything a whole lot different the week leading up to that, either," Showalter said. "To say it wouldn't be a reason would probably be just blindly looking and hoping, but I can't say that for sure. But it's not like there was a completely different guy before we started the interleague on the road."

That's true. Most of his hits were singles. It's not like he went on a home run binge before going to the bench.

His .386 slugging percentage doesn't measure up to Hardy's .548, Jones' .488, Mark Reynolds' .457, Luke Scott's .426 and Matt Wieters' .405. It doesn't measure up to his career mark of .563.

Showalter was willing to lower Derrek Lee from the third spot. He's got to be getting close to doing the same with Guerrero in the fourth spot.

If Brian Roberts' days on the disabled list were nearing an end, Showalter could drop Hardy to second - I still don't think he'll move Roberts - and perhaps slot everyone one spot lower. Jones would end up fourth in this scenario. And maybe Guerrero tumbles to sixth or - gasp - seventh.

This would be quite a change for Guerrero. He has 3,289 career at-bats as the No. 3 hitter, 4,280 as the No. 4, 117 as the No. 5, 109 as the No. 6, 26 as the No. 7, three as the No. 8 and 17 as the No. 9.

Hard to believe he ever batted ninth.

It's not as hard to believe that Showalter is considering a change for Guerrero, though it might not happen before the second half.

That's assuming, of course, that Guerrero isn't traded. As soon as the Orioles signed him, he figured to be a prime candidate to be flipped to a contender at the non-waiver deadline. But the market for his services has to be pretty thin unless reputation drastically outweighs production.

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