Guillen will look familiar at All-Star Game
Versatile infielder selected thrice in five seasons with Tigers
NEW YORK -- Carlos Guillen came to Detroit as a player who supposedly couldn't stay healthy, couldn't be consistent. He's making the All-Star Game a pretty consistent habit.
He now has three All-Star selections in five seasons as a Tiger. He has earned respect among managers around the league, which is one reason why Red Sox manager Terry Francona selected him to represent the Tigers among all the star players Detroit boasts. He has so much respect from his current manager that Jim Leyland recently called him one of his all-time favorite players.
As the Mariners embark on a rebuilding phase after trading him in 2004, he could justifiably gloat and boast how he has proven his doubters wrong. Instead, he spent Monday giving credit to some of his former teammates for helping him become the player he is now.
"When I came [to Detroit], we had a bunch of young guys," Guillen said Monday afternoon. "I tried to help, try to teach them what I learned in Seattle, because when I was in Seattle, I was the youngest player on the team and I played with a lot of All-Star guys in Seattle like A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner. They respect the game. They know how to play the game. And sometimes you need to know how to prepare yourself for the season and for the game. Sometimes kids come from Triple-A or young guys, it takes a little time to learn that kind of stuff.
"I never represented Seattle in an All-Star Game. I learned a lot with those guys. I think that's why I'm here."
He has a couple of those mentors here with him this weekend. As Alex Rodriguez dealt with the media swarming around him, Guillen told the small gathering of reporters at his table how he learned about preparation and offseason work from watching A-Rod and seeing how that made him such a consistent player. He compared Leyland's influence with that of Lou Piniella, who is here as a coach for the National League.
In Seattle, he picked up the building blocks to make himself not just a great player, but a great teammate. In Detroit, he found the situation and the support group to do it.
"I'm glad to be part of this team," he said. "I feel very excited, very happy as soon as they traded me from Seattle because I wanted to be with a team that appreciates my job and appreciates what I do for the team, my ability. They let me play. That's where I want to be. When I came here, you could see everything turned around. I played with Alan Trammell. He was very nice to me.
"You know, it feels like home. I don't feel afraid to do something. I'm not afraid to say something."
In so doing, Guillen has become a big part of the foundation around which the Tigers revolve. With a .284 average, 22 doubles, eight home runs and 47 RBIs this season, he's on track for similar numbers to his 2006 season, except for batting average. He has maintained his production despite moving all over the field, having converted from shortstop to first base full-time heading into the year, then moving over to third base a month into the season. He has even played some outfield for the first time in his career.
That versatility could come in handy for the All-Star Game, which is why when asked how many different gloves he brought with him from Detroit, he kept on counting. He has one for each position he could play.
"One, two, three, four," he said with a smile.
He did not bring any bats, but that's nothing new. He's notorious for borrowing lumber from other hitters he respects, and this All-Star Game should be an opportunity for that. He just hopes to have a chance to use a bat in this game, since he went 0-for-2 last year and didn't play at all in the 2004 Midsummer Classic.
Asked what his goal is for this game, he said, "To get a base hit."
Even if he doesn't, it won't take away from what he's done in Detroit. The fact that he's here again is a statement in itself.
"I hurt myself a lot when I was in Seattle," Guillen said. "Some people, they never get hurt. Some people get hurt a lot. So it's maybe the way you play or something. Maybe it was the way I play. Sometimes I play this game smart. You have to play aggressive and smart at the same time.
"Maybe I play more relaxed here. I don't know. Something's different."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.