Guillen takes some getting used to, and a profanity-laced tirade toward younger teammates back in April, not to mention a shouting match with a coach last weekend, have some good-natured Midwestern folks here scratching their heads in bewilderment. But one thing that hasn't changed for Guillen is his fever for playing the game hard and...
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A wall of reporters surrounded Jose Guillen’s locker, peppering him about everything from his views on his team’s play of late, to the heat pad on his neck, to the tunes in his iPod.
Just another day at the office for Guillen, holding court as he so often did last year during an 88-win season with the Mariners. But Guillen plays for the Kansas City Royals now, and his relations with this city’s media and fan base haven’t been nearly as strong as when the Safeco Field faithful treated him to a standing ovation during his final game there in September.
Guillen takes some getting used to, and a profanity-laced tirade toward younger teammates back in April, not to mention a shouting match with a coach last weekend, have some good-natured Midwestern folks here scratching their heads in bewilderment. But one thing that hasn’t changed for Guillen is his fever for playing the game hard and his willingness to get in people’s faces when they don’t do the same.
Nor his willingness to answer a straight question with an honest answer.
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“I just cannot believe it,” he said of this year’s Mariners. “It was such a great team. A veteran club, got some great pitching this year. Has some good offense. I was totally surprised to see that team have pretty much the worst record in baseball. I did not see that coming, trust me.
“I just feel bad for Mac and Bavasi. Such great baseball guys, to see them go like that … it’s not their fault. It’s the players’ fault. We all have to realize and understand that. They are not the ones playing. I know they’re the ones putting the team together, but if you don’t come to play hard and play to win every day, what do you think is going to happen?”
Guillen, who was a late scratch from Friday’s game because of a stiff neck, says he still has plenty of Mariners he considers friends and stays in touch with. He loved playing for the team last year and says he would have come back had Seattle come close to matching the three-year, $36 million deal from the Royals.
But the offer, he said, wasn’t even in the ballpark.
The day Bavasi was fired last month, he talked about how his biggest regret might have been not finding a way to bring Guillen back. Bavasi also mentioned several times his final month on the job that the Mariners lacked the ability to police themselves, to get in each other’s faces when they didn’t play well.
Something that Guillen used to do. He’d routinely take younger players like Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt aside and tell them — not always diplomatically — that they had to step up their games.
Guillen was asked Friday whether he had help from other Mariners players when it came to that kind of clubhouse policing.
“I believe it was only myself,” he said. “Because you had a lot of nice people who pretty much just like to be nice. In this game, sometimes, when you make a lot of money, this is not about being nice. It’s about doing your thing. Earning your money and doing your job.”
Guillen laid into the younger Royals early on and says he’s seen a big change in their attitude. Royals manager Trey Hillman this week praised the club for not letting up.
“This clubhouse has changed, has been turned around 100 percent,” Guillen said. “Now you see the way these guys play. Now, you see the way these guys go about their business.
“We don’t have the greatest team,” Guillen added. “But trust me, we’re going to go out and play hard.”
• A less-celebrated, but no less controversial part of Seattle’s team last season was also dressing in the Royals clubhouse pregame. It seemed as if Horacio Ramirez might never find another job after the Mariners cut him loose partway through spring training, but he was called up by the Royals as a reliever last month and has posted a 1.86 earned-run average in his first six games. Ramirez said he was never too worried about finding his next job. The key to his return, he said, was not trying to get a pitching job right away. He says he had a couple of offers after the Mariners released him, but he remained in Arizona instead and worked on a strengthening program for his arm. Ramirez signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City on May 21.
• It turned out to be a fleeting taste of major-league life for the newest and now most-recently-demoted Mariner. Relief pitcher Jared Wells was up with the team for only one day before being told Friday afternoon that he was being optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma to clear a roster spot for Felix Hernandez to return off the disabled list. The Mariners could have kept Wells and put Miguel Batista on the DL instead. But manager Jim Riggleman said Friday there’s an outside chance Batista could see action out of the bullpen before the All-Star break, depending on how deep the starters go in this series.
The former starter, one of the top-rated prospects in San Diego’s system for a while, was converted to the closer role while in the Padres’ minor-league system last season.
• Injured closer J.J. Putz is to begin a rehabilitation assignment with Class A Peoria on Sunday. If all goes well, he’ll throw another outing for Peoria on Tuesday, then another for Class AAA Tacoma on Thursday. After that, the Mariners will reevaluate him and see whether he’s ready to rejoin the squad for its post-All Star break schedule.
• Ichiro saw a three-year hitting streak against the Royals finally snapped Friday when he went 0 for 4. He’d had a hit in every one of Seattle’s games against the Royals beginning on April 14, 2005. In 26 games over that period, he went 49 for 106 (.462).
For the record
vs. AL West: 11-17
vs. L.A.: 3-6
vs. Oakland: 4-5
vs. Texas: 4-6
vs. AL East: 11-18
vs. AL Cent.: 5-13
vs. NL: 9-9
vs. LHP: 9-16
vs. RHP: 27-41
Extra innings: 2-4