Dodgers Report: Alexander Guerrero

Guerrero latest to suffer an injury

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
5:51
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The news wasn't as terrifying as the day before, when it was announced reigning National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw would miss his Sunday start in San Diego because of a muscle pull in his back, but the nicks continue to pile up for the Los Angeles Dodgers, something that hindered the club down the stretch last season.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly revealed before Thursday's exhibition game against the visiting Los Angeles Angels that second baseman Alex Guerrero had strained the intercostal muscles that run along his ribs, sidelining him indefinitely.

Guerrero, who struck out in his only at-bat in the season-opening doubleheader against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia last weekend, had been optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday for more seasoning, but the Dodgers view the 27-year-old Cuban as their future second baseman, evident by the four-year $28-million contract they offered him last October.

The intercostal muscle group consists of three layers that help the movement of the chest, such as when breathing. Mattingly wasn't sure about the specifics of the injury, but said "it sounds like it was instant."

The Dodgers were already set up for a platoon situation at second base with newly acquired Justin Turner and Dee Gordon sharing duties. Both started games in Australia, with Gordon going 3-for-4 in the leadoff spot Saturday with two runs scored and an RBI in the 7-5 win, and Turner finishing 1-for-4 while batting second in the 3-1 victory in the opener.

Relegated to pinch-running duties during much of his stay in Los Angeles, Mattingly says he has been particularly pleased with the added power Gordon has shown this season.

"We're seeing a little more pop out of his bat that we really didn't think about," Mattingly said. "That extra 10-12 pounds he has put on really has put a little different dynamic on how the ball comes off his bat."

Mattingly wasn't ready to name a starter for Sunday's game against the San Diego Padres, the regular-season opener on U.S. soil for the Dodgers. Kershaw was originally supposed to start, but now the Dodgers are looking at Hyun-Jin Ryu, who pitched five shutout innings Saturday to earn the win against Arizona. Mattingly wouldn't cement that decision until Ryu threw a bullpen session Friday, however.

Dan Haren, the other option, threw a bullpen session Thursday and will either take the mound Sunday, if Ryu can't go, or pitch Wednesday against the Padres in the series finale.

"We really can't go 100 percent where we're going to go until we find out how that goes," Mattingly said of Ryu's bullpen session.

Zack Greinke, who is scheduled to pitch against the Angels in the Freeway Series opener, is set to start Tuesday against the Padres. Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who suffered through his second straight injury-plagued season last year after nearly winning the Triple Crown in 2011, played his final spring training game in Arizona on Thursday and will rejoin the Dodgers for Friday's game.
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers’ newest every-day player was asked if he plays with a similar style to his Cuban compatriot, Yasiel Puig.

"No, different … different," Alexander Guerrero said. "He plays a little bit, as we say in Cuba, aggressively. I’m more calm."

Having arrived in the United States for the first time just two weeks ago, Guerrero -- wearing a fresh, white No. 7 jersey, a thick gold chain and loafers with no socks -- certainly looked cool and composed on Friday while mingling with Dodgers fans at Homeboy Industries in Chinatown, a stop on the team’s yearly charity caravan.

But Guerrero admitted he’s still struggling with the jarring transition to a new culture and economic system.

"It’s a process," Guerrero said. "But it’s beautiful here."

The process the Dodgers will be monitoring most closely is Guerrero’s transition from his natural position, shortstop, to his position of the future, second base.

His efforts to accelerate the learning curve were hampered by two hamstring injuries in the Dominican Republic winter league.

The Dodgers signed Guerrero for four years and $28 million to take over second base from Mark Ellis, who later signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent.

Guerrero, 26, admits the process isn’t without its flaws. He called shortstop and second base "completely different." but he also expressed confidence he can be ready by spring training. He has been working out in Arizona with Dodgers coaches for the past two weeks.

The Dodgers -- not entirely convinced Guerrero is ready, based on scouting reports of his defense from the Dominican -- have said it’s possible he’ll begin the season in the minor leagues. Options to open the season at second base include reclamation project Chone Figgins, veteran minor leaguer Miguel Rojas and Dee Gordon. The Dodgers also continue to try to add one more infielder to their bench.

Guerrero called playing in the major leagues "his dream."

"I’m working hard for it," he said. "Ultimately, it’s up to the team."

Guerrero said he was able to defect from Cuba in his third attempt -- on a boat to Haiti -- along with his brother and two friends. He said his wife, 9-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter remain in Cuba but that he expects them to join him in two months.

He sat out the 2013 season after suspicions arose in Cuba that he was thinking of defecting. With all the scrutiny from Cuban officials, he said he decided to sit out and plan his exit strategy.

Guerrero, a three-time All-Star in Cuba’s highest league, had a .308 career average, 102 home runs and 392 RBIs in eight seasons. The Dodgers project him as a premium offensive player and hope he can be adequate with the glove.

Five questions about the Dodgers infield

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
3:13
PM PT
From 1973 to 1981, the Dodgers enjoyed the most stable infield in the history of the game, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey forging the heart of some very good Dodgers teams. Those days are long gone.

Turnover is the order of the day now and the Dodgers' infield has proven highly changeable. You might have forgotten by now, but Justin Sellers and Luis Cruz both started on Opening Day last season. Dee Gordon started two Opening Days ago. Jamey Carroll and Rafael Furcal were still around three Opening Days ago and two Blakes -- DeWitt and Casey -- were in the starting lineup to kick off 2010.

And next season? While Adrian Gonzalez provides steady production and presence at first base and Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe both return, the Dodgers again will be dealing with uncertainty. They signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to be the team’s everyday second baseman, but the team has enough doubts about his ability to field the position steadily that it now says that will be an open competition this spring.

Guerrero might even begin the season in the minor leagues. The Dodgers continue to try to convince Michael Young to put off retirement and return as a place-holder second baseman, bench contributor and veteran presence.

With just 10 days to go before pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch, let’s explore five key questions:

Will fielding be a problem?

The Dodgers realize they don’t have the perfect formula. Ideally, your best fielders would be your shortstop and your second baseman and the guys on the corners, who see fewer chances, would provide power bats.

The Dodgers have to hope that thunder up the middle doesn’t lead to a deluge of ground balls sneaking into the outfield. They have a shortstop, Ramirez, with 30-home run power who is, to put it kindly, a below-average fielder. They have a second baseman who is a mystery, particularly with his glove. Meanwhile, Uribe and Gonzalez are among the best fielders at their positions, but neither is much of a home run threat these days.

“If you’re starting from a textbook and drawing up what you would want your team to be, you’d start with defense up the middle and want to have power on the corners , but that’s only one way to do it,” team president Stan Kasten said on 710 ESPNLA earlier this winter. “There are plenty of examples of teams who do it with a different model.”

Just because the model is different doesn’t mean it won’t work, but it’s risky. The Dodgers have the luxury of playing in a stadium that forgives pitchers who allow fly balls, one of the reasons they can sacrifice some infield defense. The Ramirez-Guerrero tandem likely would be untenable in the AL East, for example.

Is Guerrero ready?

Nobody had ever heard of Miguel Rojas until about a month ago, when the Dodgers started dropping his name as a legitimate alternative at second base. Considering Rojas is a career .234 hitter in the minor leagues, that’s a pretty good clue they’re having their doubts about Guerrero’s readiness for Opening Day.

Guerrero’s attempt at accelerating the learning curve transitioning from shortstop was derailed by hamstring injuries in the Dominican winter league.

Officially, the Dodgers say Guerrero is “leading the pack,” in the competition to start at second base, but Rojas -- who spent six years in the Cincinnati Reds’ system -- is a defensive wizard who is in the process of moving from shortstop as well. He impressed Dodgers veterans and coaches with his nimble infield skills last spring.

There is, however, good news. The Dodgers expect Guerrero to be an above-average offensive contributor when he’s ready and they have heard nothing but good things about the way he’s approaching the job.

“He’s very mature, an incredibly hard worker with great makeup,” Kasten said.

Are the Dodgers overly reliant on Uribe?

After two dismal seasons in Los Angeles, Uribe saved the Dodgers and redeemed his earning potential last year. After Luis Cruz simply stopped hitting, Uribe stepped in and batted .278 with 12 home runs, a huge post-season hit and spectacular defense (+15 Defensive Runs Saved), for an overall outstanding season of 4.1 WAR.

That earned Uribe a raise, a two-year, $15 million deal. The problem is he is 34, an age at which many players -- particularly third basemen -- begin a fairly spectacular decline. A bigger problem is how few fallback options the Dodgers have if Uribe doesn’t work out. Right now, Justin Sellers is listed as the backup third baseman.

The context, however, is key: Uribe was easily the most-appealing option in a field largely bereft of free-agent third basemen.

Look for the Dodgers to continue to try to woo Young. If that doesn’t work out, they’ll probably give Chone Figgins a long look this spring. They still badly need some coverage at three infield spots.

Can Ramirez stay at shortstop?

The Dodgers toyed with moving Ramirez back to third base. It was one of the scenarios on the table if Uribe wanted more than a two-year deal.

The problem with moving him again is that he’s an even worse third baseman than he is a shortstop. In 860 innings as a third baseman in 2012, Ramirez had a Defensive Runs Saved of -11 and a UZR of -3.6. In 651 innings at shortstop last year, he had a DRS of 3 and a UZR of 0.2. He was an awful third baseman two seasons ago and roughly average at shortstop last year.

The Dodgers are hoping that wasn’t the result of a small sample size. The best position for Ramirez in the long term might be the outfield, but the Dodgers are a little crowded out there these days. The good news is he very well might be the best-hitting shortstop in the game. He certainly was last year. Among players with at least 225 plate appearances, only Miguel Cabrera had a better OPS than Ramirez’s 1.040.

Keeping Ramirez healthy might be the most important question of this Dodgers season. It was pretty obvious what he meant to the team in the NLCS last October.

Are they stretched thin?

Imagine a major injury to any of the Dodgers’ everyday infielders. Now, imagine the possibilities to replace him. Frightening, isn’t it? If the Dodgers learned one thing from last season, it’s the importance of depth, because they somehow survived an endless string of injuries.

Losing Gonzalez for an extended period would be almost as trying as having Ramirez in and out of the lineup.

They may not know for a while how badly they’ll miss Mark Ellis, Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker.

Even if they convince Young to come back, it’s not as if he is a wizard with this glove. Dee Gordon is short on experience as a bench player and hasn’t proven he’s anything more than a one-dimensional player, a pure speed threat. Scott Van Slyke has mostly played outfield in the major leagues and, like Gordon, is a bit uni-dimensional -- all power.

Sellers has never hit a lick in the major leagues. Figgins didn’t even play last year. See why Rojas has suddenly become such a popular player within the organization? He keeps popping up as a possible answer to a number of different questions.

New Year's resolutions for the Dodgers

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
1:07
PM PT
Some unsolicited suggestions for key Dodgers in 2014:

Clayton Kershaw: Just sign the darn contract already.

Yasiel Puig: Just because a car can break the land speed record doesn't mean it should.

Hanley Ramirez: Use a new contract to hire engineers to design you a Dodgers uniform composed of bubble wrap.

Don Mattingly: Cut down on the sacrifice bunts. Oh, and wait a couple of extra days after the season to cool off before meeting the press.

Stan Kasten: Give your fans a little more credit. If you explain that you prefer to keep managers on one-year contracts, they'll probably get it.

Ned Colletti: Don't gut the farm system for a declining veteran, even if it seems like just what you need at the deadline and even if he has a winning pedigree.

Adrian Gonzalez: Play with the flare you showed in the postseason all year long.

Alexander Guerrero: Comport yourself with quiet dignity. Then, perhaps we can be spared the amateur sociologists in the sports world ascribing Puig's antics to his Cuban heritage.

(Ex-Dodger) Mark Ellis: Keep playing the way you play, but please, please don't say it's because of the "Cardinal Way."

Kenley Jansen: Do you really have to come in from the bullpen to "California Love?" You were nine when the guy who made that song died.

Dan Haren: Remember that Cher song, "If I Could Turn Back Time?" Awful song, but good idea.

Hyun-Jin Ryu: According to the In 'N Out Burger menu, one Double-Double has 670 calories. A quadruple-quadruple is too much.

Brian Wilson: Braid your beard so you look exactly like Khal Drogo from "Game of Thrones."

Juan Uribe: We know you signed a two-year deal, but do us a favor and just pretend you're a free agent next fall.

Zack Greinke: Even if you really don't like a hitter, after you hit him with a pitch just get out of the way when he charges.

A.J. Ellis: When you guys play the Cardinals, text Kershaw the signs.

Carl Crawford: We get that Boston wasn't your favorite place to play, but it's OK to let it go.

Andre Ethier: Become the best fourth outfielder in baseball.

Matt Kemp: Whatever "beast mode" means, give everyone a reason to say it again.

Can the Dodgers bank on Alexander Guerrero?

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
3:09
PM PT
An air of mystery still surrounds the man who might be the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting second baseman next season.

The Dodgers are contributing to that by keeping a tight lid on information about Alexander Guerrero, perhaps in an effort to tamp down the hype, perhaps because they’re hesitant to divulge the remainder of their off-season plans to other teams?

I asked their international scouting director, Bob Engle, for a scouting report and was referred to general manager Ned Colletti. I asked the Dodgers media relations staff if they could help me get in touch with special assistant Jose Vizcaino, who recently worked with Guerrero in the Dominican Republic, and was told the team would prefer I not interview Vizcaino about Guerrero.

So, for now, all we’re left with is this comment from Colletti: “Hard worker, wants to be great, learning second base, good shortstop.”

The Dodgers were hoping to get a head start on determining if Guerrero was ready to play every day this winter, but Guerrero injured his hamstring playing for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican winter league. According to the team’s roster, Guerrero is out again, listed as day-to-day. He hasn’t played since Dec. 12.

He has played exclusively second base and, in 12 games, is batting .289 with three doubles, a home run, two walks, seven strikeouts and an error. Again, not a lot to go on.

(Read full post)

Winter wish list: Infielders

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
11:39
AM PT
At least until rumors spring up that the Dodgers have had a secret dinner meeting with the representatives for Robinson Cano, which presumably should happen any minute now, here is how the infield situation shapes up:

The Dodgers have no third baseman, a second baseman who has never played a major-league game and a shortstop who some people think should be playing the outfield or designated hitter. It’s Adrian Gonzalez and three question marks.

Not exactly a settled situation, but that’s not necessarily a disastrous state of affairs for the Dodgers. Given the dearth of free agent talent and the unpredictability of trade talks, the Dodgers’ flexibility when it comes to rebuilding their infield could be a major advantage. And with their perfectly reasonable off-season imperative to get younger, openings in the infield give them the crucial soil to plant young talent.

They signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million deal. That’s the contract of a solid everyday player, so the Dodgers expect Guerrero to be on the field for them quickly rather than developing at Triple-A, but at what position? The likelihood is he will take over second base from Mark Ellis, but Guerrero has played shortstop most of his life, which usually means he could play any other infield position.

Not a single player who logged an inning at third base last season is still with the organization, except for Justin Sellers, who, according to the team, didn’t even merit a September call-up.

This would be a good class of free agent third basemen if it were 2005. Juan Uribe, who turns 35 before Opening Day, is the best of the bunch and the Dodgers would like to re-sign him, but would it be wise to give him another three-year deal after watching him produce in just one of the three seasons of the last contract they gave him?

Their safest route might be to sign Uribe to a two-year deal, if they can, hope his body holds up and that top prospect Corey Seager is ready by 2016. According to Fangraphs, Uribe had a 5.1 WAR last season, which was essentially identical to that of Adrian Beltre (5.2). On the other hand, only two third basemen in the last four years -- Alex Rodriguez and Scott Rolen -- have produced a WAR of 3.0 or better after turning 35. Third basemen tend to age fast.

Beyond Uribe, it’s impossible to find an everyday option among free agents. Eric Chavez is a 90-games-a-season guy these days. Placido Polanco will be 38.

The options are more interesting at shortstop and the Dodgers have been non-committal when asked where they plan to play Hanley Ramirez next season. For the first time since 2008, Ramirez rated out as an adequate shortstop last season, but that seemed largely due to the fact he only played 76 games there. Assuming he can stay healthy next season, he could be exposed as a major liability at shortstop, not an ideal situation for a team that relies on its pitching.

ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes reported that the Red Sox are convinced Stephen Drew will be signing with another team, so why couldn’t that team be the Dodgers? Drew didn’t hit in the post-season, but he is a more-than-solid shortstop with a knack for getting on base and good pop. He’ll be 31 next season, so swapping him for Uribe would help the Dodgers get younger, but injuries have kept him off the field. He has averaged fewer than 100 games per season the last three years. He also declined the Red Sox’s qualifying offer, which means the Dodgers would have to surrender a draft pick to sign him.

Jhonny Peralta is a solid free-agent alternative to Drew, but he also carries the baggage of last season’s 50-game suspension for using a banned substance.

General manager Ned Colletti’s best option might be to keep Jon Daniels on speed dial. Everybody in baseball knows the Dodgers have an extra outfielder and the Texas Rangers have an extra infielder. According to reports, the two teams had some discussions at the general manager meetings, but they didn’t get all that far. It seems reasonable to assume that the names Matt Kemp and Elvis Andrus arose in those meetings.

Trading a power-hitting center fielder with borderline MVP talent for a light-hitting shortstop might seem folly, but Andrus is only 25, would improve the Dodgers’ infield defense immensely, is one of the fastest players in the game, a deft bunter with good on-base skills. He would be the Dodgers’ logical solution to the leadoff question.

The players have similar contracts, so finances wouldn’t impede a deal. Neither player has no-trade protection. It might be a longshot, but given how much uncertainty the Dodgers have in their infield this winter, a bold plan of action might not be a bad idea.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
13 1.71 150 121
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .319
HRA. Gonzalez 15
RBIA. Gonzalez 71
RY. Puig 61
OPSY. Puig .958
ERAC. Kershaw 1.71
SOZ. Greinke 153