Vladimir Guerrero receives standing ovation before first at-bat against Angels
Texas Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero received a brief but rousing standing ovation before his first at-bat in Angel Stadium as a member of the visiting team Tuesday night, which came as no surprise to the club for which he starred for the past six years.
"Vlad left some big footprints here on the field, with the younger players, and with the fans," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game. "Any ovation he gets will be well-deserved."
Guerrero stepped out of the box and tipped his cap to acknowledge the crowd before lining a single to center field in the first inning.
Guerrero helped the Angels win five American League West titles in his six years in Anaheim, and he won AL most-valuable-player honors in 2004, when he hit .337 with 39 home runs and 126 runs batted in.
Though injuries limited the 35-year-old slugger to 100 games last season, when he hit .295 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs, Guerrero had one of the biggest hits of the post-season, a ninth-inning, two-out, two-run single off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon that gave the Angels a 7-6 division series-clinching win over the Red Sox in Fenway Park.
The Angels wanted Guerrero, a free agent, back, but only for one year guaranteed. When Guerrero's representatives, according to Scioscia, looked for a deal "that was going to be a lot longer in terms and a lot more in guaranteed" money, the Angels signed Hideki Matsui to a one-year, $6-million deal to be their designated hitter.
Guerrero eventually signed a one-year, $6.5-million deal with the Rangers that includes a $9-million mutual option for 2011, and he clearly has something left. He entered Tuesday night's game with a .327 average, 15 homers and 60 RBIs and was the leading AL DH vote-getter for the All-Star game, to be played in Angel Stadium on July 13.
"I'm not going to critique anyone," Guerrero, speaking through an interpreter, said when asked about his decision to leave Anaheim. "I know it's a business. There are no hard feelings. The Rangers gave me an opportunity, and I'm happy to be here."
Asked if he was at all motivated to show that the Angels made a mistake, Guerrero said, "No. All I have to do is my job, and see what happens."
Guerrero said he had to ask several stadium employees for directions to the visiting clubhouse Tuesday afternoon, but once he stepped onto the field before batting practice, he felt very much at home, exchanging emotional hugs and handshakes with numerous Angels players and coaches.
"I'm very happy to be back," Guerrero said. "It's a good feeling to come here with a team that is playing such good baseball."
The Rangers entered Tuesday with a 46-29 record and a 4 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the division, and Guerrero, much to the chagrin of the Angels, has had a lot to do with that. But even Scioscia had to admit that part of him was glad to see Guerrero, a potential Hall of Famer, having success.
"If you can't be happy for Vlad, something is wrong," Scioscia said. "He's probably the most unassuming superstar around. He has great respect for people. I'm just not glad he's doing it for a team that is in our division."
-- Mike DiGiovanna
Photo: Texas Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero prior to Tuesday's game against the Angels. Credit: Mike Blake / Reuters