Guerrero, Rangers haven't forgotten each other
Slugger led club to first World Series in '10, signed with Orioles
BALTIMORE -- Darren O'Day dove into a dish of homemade chicken, rice and black beans three hours before the Rangers were supposed to play the Orioles on Friday night, a game that was later rained out.Vladimir Guerrero has not forgotten his old teammates. Nor have they forgotten him. "What am I going to miss about Vlad?" shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "You mean besides the food?" Yes, besides the food that Guerrero's mother cooks for players almost every day. "The whole Vlad," Andrus said. "He was a great guy to talk to. He was a great hitter to watch and a great person to have in the clubhouse." "Oh, man, where do I start," infielder Michael Young said. "He was just a great teammate. I always knew he was a great hitter, but I never realized how hard he played the game. He plays hard, he respects his teammates, he's just an off-the-chart teammate. Just a great guy." Guerrero is now in the opposite clubhouse, and Rangers pitchers will have to face him for three games in a row. After one excellent year with the Rangers, Guerrero signed with the Orioles during the winter and is now their designated hitter. This is his first chance to face the Rangers this season. "I'm excited," Guerrero said. "I was only there for one year, but I'm excited to see all those guys again. Come game time, it's time to play ball but it is exciting to see those guys again." Guerrero signed with the Rangers last year after six seasons with the Angels and hit .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI in 152 games, helping them reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. "With those guys, it was very special, so that's why I'm going to try to do that same thing in here," Guerrero said. Rangers pitchers should remember Guerrero. He has been especially tough on them his entire career. Guerrero went into Friday's game with a career batting average of .396 against the Rangers, the highest of any opponent with a minimum 150 plate appearances. His .666 slugging percentage is the third highest and his .461 on-base percentage is the second highest by an opponent. "It's always interesting to face him," said Matt Harrison, who starts for the Rangers on Saturday. "He'll swing at everything. You just throw like he's got two strikes on him. You're just as well to throw one down the middle as bounce one because he'll hit that too." One way the Rangers have tried to stop him is with a defensive shift. Ron Washington is thus far the only manager to use it, but the Rangers will still have three infielders on the left side of second base when Guerrero comes to bat. Washington used that when Guerrero was with the Angels and will use it again now that he is with the Orioles. "I know we took a ton of hits away from him," Washington said. "There were a lot of hits up the middle that we took away and there were a lot of hits in the six-hole that we took away. Sometimes, he went over the defense, and you can't stop that, and he punched a few through the right side. He can have those." Pitcher Darren Oliver knows what Guerrero can do with a bat. He saw it many years ago when Guerrero was playing at the Class A level in the Montreal Expos' farm system. "It was 1996," Oliver said. "I had just made the Rangers' rotation, but they didn't need five starters to start the season so they optioned me to get a couple of starts in the Minors. They asked if I wanted to go to (Double-A) Tulsa or (Class A) Port Charlotte. I said, let's go to Port Charlotte, it's warmer. "He took me deep ... home run to right field. I said, 'Who is this guy?'" He remembered it. We laugh about it." It has been a few years since Oliver has faced Guerrero. They were teammates with the Angels in 2007-09 and again with the Rangers last season. Now Oliver may have to get him out again. "I miss my boy Vladdy," Oliver said. "What a nice guy he is. So underrated. He doesn't say a whole lot, but he can play. He is good. He is a superstar, but you would never know it. He is a quiet guy ... down to earth." And his mother can still cook.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.