Guillen showing moxie this spring
Veteran working hard, out to prove his worth in right field
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jose Guillen was in a playful yet serious mood on Wednesday in the Royals' clubhouse.
"I'm not done yet," he said with a big smile. "Mike Tyson in his day is hard to beat -- coming through with a knockout. I'm just looking for one punch."
Guillen, who has ignited some verbal bombs in the past, has been the quiet man of the Royals' camp. He's gone about his business with nary a peep about the plan to use him as a designated hitter instead of as the regular right fielder.
"I know there's a lot of expectation: 'When is Jose Guillen going to explode?'" Guillen said. "I'm not like that. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win, I'm going to do whatever is best for this organization. But I'm going to show them I can play in the field and do whatever they ask me to do. Because if I know if I cannot play in the field, I know I'm going to DH."
So Guillen is dedicating himself to proving to manager Trey Hillman that he can still patrol right field where David DeJesus is slated to play. And so far Hillman is pleased.
"Very happy with the way he's swinging the bat, happy with the way he's moving. He's had a great attitude all camp," Hillman said.
"The same things are going to keep coming up. His desire to want to play right field -- I don't want to take that desire away from him. At the end of the day, I'm going to put the best team out there I think is going to win a ballgame. He's still going to get plenty of reps in right field."
Guillen is coming off left ankle surgery that came at the end of a season in which he was plagued by leg miseries. He played just half a schedule, 81 games, and had just eight home runs, 40 RBIs and a .242 average. But he reported to camp slimmer and harder and with the legs solid.
"It's going good," Guillen said. "A hundred percent, ready to go. People expected something and I showed up to show them something different."
He thought maybe folks figured he'd be overweight or still limping or grumpy. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
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Hillman's not surprised that Guillen has kept the peace.
"The reason that it's not surprising is that, at the end of the day, no matter how frustrated he gets I believe that the overriding factor has always been and always will be for Jose Guillen: He wants to play on a winning baseball team," Hillman said.
"That's as simple as I can put it. Jose Guillen, most of the time, gets frustrated for the right reasons of being competitive, passionate and wanting to win baseball games."
No doubt about it, says Guillen.
"I hate to be losing and you know how I get when I'm losing," he said. "When we're winning, everything is perfect."
This spring Hillman has started Guillen six times in right field and twice at DH. In his eight games he's batting .263 (5-for-19) with two doubles and two RBIs. He's moved well in the field and on the bases.
"I'm a winner, I'm a team player. I'm not one of those guys that's going to be a selfish player," Guillen said. "I'm going to DH sometimes but I'm going to play a lot in the outfield. And that's something in my mindset, to show Trey I can play in the field and I think so far I have proven that. And I'm confident that I'm going to play, I'm going to get my 500 at-bats. I guarantee that."
Both Guillen and Hillman believe that his bat speed is better.
"I know people were concerned, 'Oh, his bat speed's slow,' well I've been showing to them that my bat speed's not slow because I've been hitting the ball every game pretty much," Guillen said.
Hillman has complimented Guillen's swing and bat speed several times this spring.
"Tremendous," Hillman said. "It's as good as two years ago when he put up the big numbers."
In 2008, during the first installment of Guillen's three-year, $36-million contract, he drove in 97 runs and had 20 homers, 42 doubles and a .264 average.
Because this is his "walk year," getting another rich contract could provide additional motivation to excel.
"No, not really," he said. "I know I want to keep playing. I don't know how long but when my time is up, I'm just going to walk away because I'm not going to be one of those guys that they're going to have to kick out of the game. When it's time, I'll just step out and say, 'I'm done.' But I know if I keep myself in good shape and keep working hard, I've probably got two, three [more years] at the most. And I'm going to try to give it all I've got."
Guillen, 33, has been in pro baseball since 1993. The Royals are his ninth Major League club. The travel is incessant.
"I'm trying to spend time with my family. I've got three kids, I've got to spend time with them. I don't want to see my kids growing up and Jose Guillen is 45 years old and still playing," he said.
But the time for him to go has not yet arrived.
"I feel that I can play, I'm showing them I can play, I've been working my buns off," he said. "I'm just a tough missile -- I'm hard to beat."
Especially with that Mike Tyson punch.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.