Notes: Split at short works for Guillen
All-Star backs Santiago, questions potential pickups
CLEVELAND -- Carlos Guillen can accept moving to first base -- or even platooning there -- to make room for a quality shortstop. He'd rather do that than move to first base as a reactionary move under the notion that he can't play shortstop.
The question or whether and when to shift Guillen began last spring during his contract negotiations and resurfaced sooner than expected when Ramon Santiago was called up from Triple-A Toledo last month as a defensive replacement. It's a debate that will likely flourish in the offseason as the Tigers try to fill an opening in the lineup at one of the two positions.
Guillen, not surprisingly, has a strong opinion on the subject. And just because he has taken his playing time at first base in stride doesn't mean he's ready to give up on shortstop altogether.
"I don't have a problem playing first base. I don't have any problem," Guillen said. "But if you bring in a shortstop, he [should] be a really good shortstop."
Guillen has played all over the infield over the course of his career. But as he pointed out, when he played second and third base his first couple years in Seattle, it was because the Mariners had Alex Rodriguez.
Right now, the Tigers don't have another All-Star at short. They do, however, have Santiago, who has filled in admirably on defense when Guillen has played at first base. To Guillen, he's a pretty good option.
"He can play every day," Guillen said. "He played in the World Series. He did a pretty good job."
Manager Jim Leyland again heaped praise on the job Santiago has performed down the stretch defensively. He also said that whatever they've had offensively from the 28-year-old has been a bonus.
"I like [Santiago]. He's played tremendous at shortstop," Leyland said. "He's very, very good. We're very happy with that."
That said, Leyland has indicated on more than one occasion that he doesn't see Santiago holding up to the wear and tear of an everyday shortstop over the course of a full season.
"I like him. He's a nice little player," Leyland said. "But playing periodically and staying fresh and everything is a whole lot different than playing 155, 160 games at shortstop."
Guillen is fine with the arrangement as it is now, splitting starts with Santiago at shortstop while playing first base on other days. If they're going to bring him someone from outside the organization, however, he'd like to see them go for a big-name contributor to justify it.
"I don't have any problem. I just want to win," Leyland said. "My point is if you bring in a shortstop who makes $5-7 million, he needs to fit."
The free-agent market is not deep at shortstop, with 40-year-old Omar Vizquel and 32-year-old David Eckstein shaping up to be the leaders of the class. The other options would be via trade, with several teams facing decisions on whether to keep veteran shortstops or go younger at the position. Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson was a much-rumored trade target, but he will coincidentally average just under $7 million over the next two seasons under his long-term contract.
Ivan Rodriguez, for one, would like to see Guillen remain primarily a shortstop.
"It's good for him to take a couple of days rest and play first base, but not to play every day at first base," Rodriguez said. "Shortstop, that is his position."
Magglio meets history: Magglio Ordonez remembers as a kid listening to his father, Maglio, talk about Cesar Tovar, but he never saw him play. The native Venezuelan was done playing in the Major Leagues when the younger Ordonez was just two years old and passed away when Ordonez was 20, but his role as one of the great Venezuelan players included 204 hits in 1971 for a .311 average.
No other Venezuelan -- not Bobby Abreu, Vizquel, Miguel Cabrera, Melvin Mora or even Andres Galarraga -- had 200 hits in a season until Ordonez, whose two-hit effort Monday put him at the exact mark. The phone calls and messages he received this morning from friends, family, newspaper reporters and even a Venezuelan radio station indicated how big a deal this was in his home country.
"It's an honor," Ordonez said. "The last time anybody did it was 1971. You see how many baseball players from Venezuela are here now. They haven't come close."
Ordonez started thinking about it when he was close, around the 190-hit mark. It was around that time that people told him about Tovar and the feat. They also told him that Abreu is the only Venezuelan ever to hit 50 doubles in a season. Ordonez is one away from that standard, too.
Celebrate good times: Casey Blake apparently felt badly about the celebration he did on his way around the bases following his walk-off homer in the 11th inning on Monday night. The Tigers didn't think there was anything to construe as showmanship on the home run in the first place.
"He doesn't need to apologize, man," Rodriguez said. "That's the moment. We play for something. We play to be in the postseason. Congratulate the guy. He won for his team. He deserves to celebrate.
"I saw him with his hands up running. There's nothing wrong with that. I've done that before."
So has Leyland, who was running out of the dugout last week when the Tigers scored four in the ninth to beat the Blue Jays.
"Did you see me? That doesn't offend me one bit," Leyland said. "Casey Blake and the entire Cleveland team is a class act. I don't have any problem with that. I'd have celebrated, too. "
Coming up: Nate Robertson (8-11, 4.93) will take the unenviable task of trying to pitch opposite Cy Young Award candidate C.C. Sabathia (17-7, 3.21) Wednesday afternoon in the series finale. Game time is 12:05 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.