Guillen has fun in left field vs. Mariners
Infielder plays well in first career game as outfielder in win
SEATTLE -- If Carlos Guillen is going to be playing left field, he's going to have a little fun with it.
Brandon Inge watched Guillen take Jose Lopez's first-inning fly ball Sunday not knowing what to expect. He ended up nearly busting out laughing on the field. It wasn't that Guillen bumbled the ball; it was the way he caught it.
"Guillen Henderson," Inge called him later.
That's exactly what Guillen was looking for. Before the game, he joked with reporters with his impersonation of his former Mariners teammate, Rickey Henderson, catching a ball in the outfield. Nobody knew he would take that to the field on a play.
Guillen swiped at the ball as it came in. Inge and others had a blast with it.
"He looked really good out there," manager Jim Leyland summed up Guillen's game afterwards, "and happy."
The happiness apparently was not an impersonation.
"Try to have fun," Guillen said. "Try to win the game, any way we can."
In this case, it involved Guillen playing the outfield for the first time in his professional career, more than a decade after the Mariners drafted him as an outfielder. Borrowing a glove from Gary Sheffield, Guillen made four catches without a hitch while going 2-for-5 at the plate.
He had a couple challenging plays. One was Jose Lopez's one-hopper off the left-field fence for a leadoff double in the fifth inning. The other was Raul Ibanez's fly ball to the warning track in the seventh, which Guillen had to adjust his route on in order to catch.
Perhaps the best words about what Guillen's move meant came from the man who played in his place at third base. Most of the shuffling this season has involved Inge, from third to catcher to center field. The move from Guillen to left was a way to get Inge's glove at third on certain days while keeping Guillen in the lineup. It won't be a full-time shift, but it's something Leyland can do for defense.
Inge certainly knows how it feels to move around the field. That might be why he appreciated the move so much.
"To be able to get back in there now," Inge said, "it's very hard to put into words how excited I am and eager. I'm not the answer by any means, but I've had a little time to sit back and look at how these guys have been playing. And we've got an unbelievable group of guys here, an unbelievable group of guys. I just want them to have fun. I want to be a part of it. So I'm very happy to be getting some time there."
Inge made some big plays at third in Sunday's game, from fielding Curtis Granderson's throw to tag out Yuniesky Betancourt trying to take third with one out in the sixth inning of a tie game to snaring Betancourt's broken-bat line drive for the final out of the eighth with a piece of lumber flying in his general direction.
It isn't a permanent move, and Leyland said again that he believes Guillen will be a good third baseman once he's healthy and has a chance to play there regularly. But on a team where Leyland has so many players vying for time in the field, it's added flexibility.
Leyland has talked a lot about the flow of the team this week. This, he believes, helps the flow.
"I think we have a lot of nice pieces, guys that can play," Leyland said, "and now we're going to get them in there and get them out, mix it up a little bit, have a little fun, try to get on a little roll. I think we have a little better flow going now."
How that mix will flow in Oakland this upcoming series is a work in progress. Leyland wants to play Marcus Thames for at least the final two games of the series, but he also wants to get Clete Thomas a game in left field and Guillen another game. He raised the idea of giving right fielder Magglio Ordonez a game to help fit everyone in.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.