02/19/08 6:32 PM ET
Guillen says he's passionate, not a pain
New Royals outfielder a happy camper in early going
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Guillen breezed through his first workout with the Royals on Tuesday and then donned a dark, curly, '70s-style wig for a mass interview. His eyes must have been dancing behind the sunglasses he wore over his wide grin.
"This used to be my hair. I just decided to put it on. Somebody did this to me. [David] DeJesus told me to wear it for you all," Guillen said. "He told me, 'I bet you cannot wear this out there.' I said, 'All right, you lose already -- 50 bucks.' "
The Royals have been working out in Surprise since a volunteer camp began on Feb. 7, but the arrival of Guillen, for the first full-squad practice was the most anticipated event so far.
Guillen, after all, carries the bat that is supposed to rev up an anemic offense. He's expected to bang balls over the fence and send outfielders chasing deep into the alleys. All, we might add, to the tune of $12 million a year for three seasons.
His outlandish hairpiece aside, Guillen presented a sunny picture under the blue Arizona skies. He said he feels no pressure, prefers to play right field but will play anywhere, and thinks the Royals are headed in the right direction.
There's a matter of a 15-day suspension for violating baseball's drug policy that he's due to serve when the season opens. That's under appeal, and Guillen didn't have much to say about that or his inclusion in the Mitchell Report.
"I always watch the TV and what's going on," he said. "I know it's not good for the game, but again, when my situation gets resolved, I'm going to talk and you guys can ask me questions and I'm going to answer all the questions, but right now I cannot talk anything about that situation."
The Royals are Guillen's ninth Major League team since he broke in with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997. He has been no stranger to controversy or heated moments.
So he was asked if he'd been misunderstood or was really hard to deal with.
"I don't know. That's you guys putting that in there. I'm a pretty easy guy to get along with. I don't have any problem with anyone. I just don't like to talk too much," Guillen said.
Royals manager Trey Hillman preferred to look on Guillen's past in a positive way.
"One thing I'm very encouraged by is that he's always had passion. Sometimes the passion is misconstrued as a bad attitude. I don't see it that way," Hillman said.
"Ten times over one I would rather have a guy that you've got to help control his presentation rather than a guy that you've got to put a cattle prod on his rear end to get him going."
Hardly anyone has questioned Guillen's drive on the field.
"I just like to play this game the way it should be played. I have a lot of respect for this game," Guillen said. "That's one thing about me -- I'm a hard worker and ... know how important it is to win and play the right way. I believe this team is going in the right direction right now."
If that's true, Guillen has to be in the forefront. Duplicating his 23 homers and 99 RBIs last season with the Seattle Mariners would be a big improvement for the Royals. Last year the Royals' leader in RBIs, Emil Brown, had 62 and their homer high was 18 by John Buck.
"There's no pressure, I know what I have to do -- just play baseball and work hard and just try to help some of these young guys and try to teach them to play the game," he said.
Guillen caused a stir at the Royals FanFest in January when he objected to playing left field, the spot projected for him all winter by Hillman. That was quickly addressed, and now Hillman sees Guillen playing right field with Mark Teahen switching to left.
"I signed here to be the right fielder but if he needs me to play in left or center I'm going to be playing there," Guillen said Tuesday. "I hope it's not a controversy to you guys. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win, and if he needs me to play left, I'll be there; if he needs me to play center, I'll be there."
OK, but where would he like to bat in the lineup?
"I'm pretty sure he's going to put me in there batting ninth or eighth or something like that," he said.
That's right. Always leave 'em laughing.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.