12/05/08 4:44 PM EST
Guillen preparing for winter ball
Veteran wants extra time to get ready for move to outfield
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Guillen, slated to move from third base to left field next year, will get a head start on the shift by working out with Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League in preparation for a possible late December stint, his first in winter ball in three years.
"There's a good possibility that he could play," assistant general manager Al Avila said. "If he is 100 percent ready to go, there is a chance that he could play there a few games in the outfield."
While the Tigers have had several prospects playing extra this offseason, from infielder Jeff Larish in the Arizona Fall League to catcher Dusty Ryan in Puerto Rico, to outfielder Matt Joyce in Venezuela, Guillen is a different situation. It's an increasingly infrequent case for Detroit's star players to take part in winter ball. When the Tigers negotiated their eight-year, $152 million contract for Miguel Cabrera last spring, one of the stipulations was that Cabrera would not play in the winter, something he had done for much of his career while with the Florida Marlins.
Guillen doesn't have a clause in his contract, but for other reasons required permission from the Tigers to play this winter. While rumors persisted out of Venezuela for the past month that Guillen might play, club officials downplayed the possibility, saying he had not approached them about it.
That changed recently, when Guillen approached them about the idea as a way for him to get accustomed to the outfield.
Guillen would've started working out with the club earlier this week, but a family matter required his attention. A Venezuelan sports publication, Leder en Deportes, reported that Guillen is on track to begin playing for Magallanes on Dec. 15, quoting one of the club's directors, but both Guillen and Avila downplayed that timetable.
"Maybe at the end of December," Guillen wrote in an e-mail from his home, "because I need to play left field."
Guillen has not played winter ball since 2005, when he played in seven games for Magallanes to get some extra playing time after an injury-plagued Major League season that year.
A stint in winter ball would allow Guillen to adjust to the move, a position where he played just two games this past season, while also letting him test the strength of his back after inflammation and a pinched nerve left him out of action after Aug. 25. He finished with 113 games played, his lowest total in a season since 2005, while batting .286 with 29 doubles, 10 home runs and 54 RBIs.
Part of the reason for moving Guillen to the outfield is his health. The Tigers hope that taking Guillen out of the infield will eliminate some of the quick, side-to-side movements that have given him trouble.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.