Alex Guerrero quietly slipped into Albuquerque on Saturday. He hopes to make some noise starting Sunday.
“I’m very excited to play, first off,” Guerrero said via translator David Longley. “Based off what they told me, the ball carries here wherever you hit it, based off the altitude that we’re at. (But) I’m really just looking to go up and make contact.”
Guerrero was a shortstop in Cuba, where he was a three-time all-star for Las Tunas. He also played on the Cuban national team before defecting in 2012. Guerrero did not play in 2013, finally signing with the Dodgers on Oct. 21.
In addition to shaking off the rust from not playing for a year, Guerrero also faces the daunting task of changing positions. The Dodgers feel he will fit better at second base, profiling as an offense-first player in the mold of ex-Dodger Jeff Kent.
“This is not going to be a problem,” Guerrero said of the position change. “The shift has already taken place. I’ve already gotten a feel for playing, the rhythm. The details are the only things left. It’s just to get repetitions and perfect the craft.”
Guerrero, ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 7 prospect by Baseball America, hit .300 with nine RBI during spring training. He struck out as a pinch hitter in his lone regular-season at-bat with the Dodgers when they played the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia on March 23.
Unfortunately for Guerrero, he strained his oblique while in Australia and had to remain behind in Arizona when the regular season kicked off. Now healthy, the Dodgers felt he could benefit from playing every day in Albuquerque while former Isotope Dee Gordon holds down second base in Los Angeles.
“He worked hard throughout spring training,” Isotopes manager Damon Berryhill said. “I expect the same thing here. As far as language, he’s got a translator. It’s pretty much straight across the board, if you work hard and play hard, we’ll be fine with the language part of it. It’s no big deal. I think he knows he’s here to work and try to help this club win. And then improve in some areas so he can get to the big leagues.”
Berryhill said he is under no orders to treat Guerrero differently despite the cultural adjustment he must make. Instead, Guerrero will be just one of the 25 players on the roster.
“We’re going to treat him like everybody else,” Berryhill said. “He’s been over here, he’s been through a big-league spring training. He was doing really well and ended up pulling the oblique and that set him back a little bit. I think he’s fairly accustomed to being over here now. He knows a lot of these guys on this club. He’s shown nothing but hard work and open-minded to the new position, trying to develop his game over here.”
Guerrero will start at second base Sunday against Tacoma and bat seventh in the lineup. He took the roster spot of veteran infielder Brendan Harris, who was released Saturday.