Guillen confident in future beyond Tigers
Veteran -- along with Magglio -- eager to prove he can play in '12
DETROIT -- Carlos Guillen plans on playing in 2012. Magglio Ordonez, Guillen said, plans on playing, too. But they've both come to grips with the fact that it won't be for the Tigers. And the comeback story they helped write a half-dozen years ago will move on without them, now with the Tigers among the select group of World Series contenders.
No hard feelings, Guillen said.
"It's baseball," Guillen told MLB.com in a phone interview. "You know where you start. You never know where you finish. I understand."
They've had time to digest it. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters last week that they would most likely not pursue Ordonez and Guillen as free agents, something Dombrowski said he told both players in the final month of the season.
Guillen, at the time, was trying to come back from a left calf strain that sidelined him from mid-September on. He had worked his way back from microfracture knee surgery that cost him the end of 2010 and the first half of '11, only to have a bad wrist sideline him again for most of August. His likely last game as a Tiger was a spot start at second base in Oakland, two days after Detroit had clinched its first division title in 24 years.
Ordonez at the time was trying to put together the kind of late run that salvaged his 2009 season, only this time in a contract year. In the process, he was helping the Tigers overcome the loss of productive young outfielder Brennan Boesch to a season-ending thumb injury. Ordonez batted .419 (18-for-43) in September.
His three-hit game helped the Tigers take Game 2 of the American League Division Series, then he chipped in two hits in Game 5 as the Tigers advanced. His final game as a Tiger, though, was the rain-shortened ALCS opener at Texas, a game he left when he was unable to continue on an increasingly painful right ankle. He received the painful news later that the ankle was broken again, the same fate that ended his 2010 season.
Guillen might have been healthy enough to join the Tigers for the World Series. With Ordonez out, they never made it. Thus ended two of the longest Tigers tenures since Bobby Higginson's retirement. Guillen spent eight years in Detroit, Ordonez seven.
Guillen was one of the defining moves in the offseason after Detroit's 119-loss season in 2003. Ordonez provided the signature moment of their run to the World Series in '06, with the walk-off home run that clinched an ALCS sweep. They'll fondly remember those moments, but they're not ready for their careers to end.
"I have good memories from the Tigers -- good friends, good guys, great fans, great town to play baseball," Guillen said. "It's part of the game. It's part of your career. We have to understand the situation, our situation. But at the same time, if Magglio proves he can play, he'll play. I can play."
Dombrowski confirmed last week that Ordonez had surgery to repair the ankle. That surgery went so well, according to a source, that Ordonez could begin rehab workouts as soon as the end of this month. He'll work out with the same south Florida specialists at 4.40 Fitness who helped him back last year with an intensive rehab plan.
Guillen has kept in touch with Ordonez by phone.
"[In] three or four months, he'll be OK," Guillen said. "He's doing better."
The goal is to get Ordonez back ready for the start of next season. He was able to do that this season, but he had one more month to rehab than he'll have this winter after the surgery. He'll be one year older, closing in on his 38th birthday at the end of January. But he'll also have the knowledge that it took him toward the end of the season to get the same drive off his ankle, connecting the back foot in his swing, that he had before the original injury.
As for the 36-year-old Guillen, he has his first healthy offseason in a few years. That, more than anything, has him optimistic about his future.
"I'm healthy," Guillen said. "My knee's good. My calf is good. I'm already working out in Miami, two weeks already."
As long as he's healthy, he wants to play, whatever the role. He had several of them over the last five years in Detroit -- shortstop in 2007, first and third baseman in '08, left fielder in '09, then second baseman the last couple years. It was a maddening carousel for him at times, but it was a test that might allow him to extend his career now as a switch-hitting utility player.
He's probably going to have to wait out the market to see how rosters shake out. But he's willing to be patient.
"I want to try, you know," Guillen said. "If somebody wants me, I'll play. I feel good. I'm healthy."
Neither Guillen nor Ordonez have to play. They both made millions over their contracts in Detroit -- a combined $23 million this year alone. They've both set themselves up for success in retirement. Ordonez has enough business interests in his native Venezuela that he'll be set for life. Guillen has the connections and eye for the game to find a career in baseball that will last long after he retires.
Neither are ready for that quite yet.
"Why not [try to play]?" Guillen asked. "If you feel you can play, why not?"