Left or right? Guillen will obey Trey
Hillman to keep open mind on corner outfield spots
KANSAS CITY -- What was this? A controversy in the making in the midst of the Royals FanFest?
"I'm not going to play left field," Royals newcomer Jose Guillen told a reporter almost off-handedly, adding that he needed to talk to general manager Dayton Moore about the topic.
New manager Trey Hillman has spent the winter saying that Guillen, the three-year $36-million free agent signee, would be his left fielder. Now Guillen was saying he wanted to play right field, Mark Teahen's spot.
Moore was located in the FanFest tumult and he went to the players' lounge for a conversation. Hillman showed up moments later. What emerged from the dialogue was compromise.
In short, Hillman agreed to keep an open mind on the subject going into Spring Training. Guillen agreed to accept his boss' decision.
"I can't argue with my boss. If he says play left field, I play left field," Guillen said. "I just told him I feel more comfortable in right field, that's my natural position and the arm that I have and stuff. Not to disrespect Teahen or anybody, but I'm here to win and to do anything they ask me to do. That's the main thing."
Guillen said he just wanted to let Moore and Hillman know about how he felt before Spring Training started.
"Jose expressed to me today that he has a major comfort level in playing right and that he feels his value in our expansive outfield at Kauffman Stadium will better serve the club in right," Hillman said.
He said he respected that but added, "I don't need anybody copping attitudes on my plans to get better defensively."
Moore said the subject was not open to negotiation.
"Trey will make the decision as to who plays and where they play," he said.
After meeting with Guillen, Hillman discussed the matter with Teahen who switched from third base to right field last season.
"I told both of them, Teahen and Guillen, to be open-minded. But in the end, I'll do what's best for the club and most times that's what's best for the individual players and what they can bring to the table. Mark is Mark -- he doesn't care," Hillman said.
True enough, Teahen sounded an agreeable note.
"I think the switch from right to left would be a heck of a lot easier than the switch from third to right," Teahen said. "So whatever happens, happens. It's just kind of out of my control."
In the end, Guillen was also in a conciliatory frame of mind.
"As a veteran, I've played long enough at one position and I just wanted him to understand the situation," he said. "I've just got to be prepared for anything. He's the boss and I've got to do what he tells me to do."
Hillman's mind was churning and he saw a possible plus in Guillen as the right fielder.
"My original plan was probably to put Jose in left and leave Teahen alone because he was already in the conversion," Hillman said. "But there was also a possibility on any given day of a four-spot rotation of left, right, first base, DH. So if you can lessen that, which we can if we put Jose in right, then we eliminate the possibility of a four-position rotation and it cuts it down to three."
Example: On a given day, Guillen would move from left to right, Teahen from right to first base, Billy Butler from first to DH and Joey Gathright would play left -- four changes.
If Guillen is in right, he stays put. Teahen goes from left to first, Butler from first to DH, Gathright to left -- three changes.
Hillman also noted that scouting reports indicate that Guillen's arm, already powerful, had gotten stronger recently. He had nine assists last year for the Mariners.
On the other hand, Teahen also exhibited a strong and accurate arm from right field, getting 17 assists last season.
In fact, Teahen came close to throwing out a batter at first base from right field last year.
"That'd be kind of hard to do if I'm in left," he said with a laugh. "But anything is do-able."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.