Tigers activate Guillen from DL
Former All-Star to start off as left-handed designated hitter
DETROIT -- Carlos Guillen can't bat right-handed quite yet, and he can't play the field. But as a left-handed-hitting designated hitter, he can still hit. And on a Tigers team needing offense, they hope he can add a spark.
With that in mind, the Tigers activated Guillen from the disabled list Friday and put him in the starting lineup for both games of Friday's day-night doubleheader against the White Sox, his first game action with Detroit since May 4. He batted fifth as the designated hitter, which is where he'll likely stay against right-handed pitchers until his shoulder allows him to switch-hit and make outfield throws.
His return was part of a retinkered lineup that shifted Miguel Cabrera back to fourth in the order and Clete Thomas batting third. He made an almost immediate impact, homering in the second game to go with a combined 3-for-7 performance.
"It's certainly nice to look at the lineup and write Guillen's name in there today, I can tell you that," manager Jim Leyland said.
Leyland didn't mean that as a criticism, he cautioned. But if Guillen can find his hitting stroke of old, he's a pretty good catalyst to have.
Guillen's lingering shoulder injury is one of the many reasons the Tigers have been inconsistent on offense for much of the year, and particularly anemic lately. After missing the final month and a half of last season with back problems, Guillen came to Spring Training healthy and played through the World Baseball Classic without incident, albeit mostly at DH.
A play at the fence at Toronto's Rogers Centre roughed up Guillen's right shoulder, and it progressively grew worse. After going in and out of the lineup for the back half of April, he went on the 15-day disabled list in early May. Not until the last three or four weeks did the shoulder finally free up, allowing Guillen to work his way back.
As it turned out, it was quicker work than expected. He began his rehab assignment last week at Class A Lakeland, seemingly ticketed for a lot of at-bats. After experiencing some shoulder soreness trying to bat right-handed last week, he came to Detroit on Tuesday for an exam, but said he was fine.
Guillen spent just two games at Triple-A Toledo, including a 3-for-4 performance Thursday against Syracuse.
Asked how much the Tigers' offensive struggles factored into the decision, president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said, "Zero, because we feel he is ready."
For now, Guillen will share time at DH with Marcus Thames. Leyland said Thames will also play more in left field, splitting time with Ryan Raburn. Once Guillen can play the outfield and switch-hit, which he believes should be soon, he'll be more of a full-time player, shifting more often into the field.
The last time Guillen was completely healthy, he was an All-Star last year, batting .284 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at the break. By comparison, he hit .200 (18-for-90) through the shoulder trouble this season, with no homers, six RBIs and 15 strikeouts.
That said, Guillen dismissed the notion that he's any kind of savior to this lineup.
"I've worked hard every day, trying to get back as soon as possible," Guillen said. "But everybody has to know that it's not only one player. It's for the team. Everybody has to get good at-bats, get [runners] over, don't give at-bats away, make the pitchers throw strikes. It's not only one player. We have to be a group, everybody making adjustments."
"I don't want to put it on one guy," the manager said. "I think we need more consistency throughout the lineup."
Likewise, Guillen's arrival doesn't stop the Tigers' search for offensive help on the trade market. Dombrowski said they'll continue to talk with clubs about acquiring another hitter. One hitter they had discussed, left fielder Matt Holliday, was traded to St. Louis on Friday.
"I don't really know that it'll make a significant difference one way or the other," Dombrowski said. "He's going to be able to hit. I don't know how his timing is going to be, but we know he's a good big league hitter. We'll still continue to have talks with clubs, one way or the other."
That said, Dombrowski cautioned, "I believe [the offense] is better than what it's been performing. And a lot of it has to come internally. I just think that some guys that we have are better hitters. They're just not swinging real well right now, for whatever reason. We've faced some tough pitching, maybe they're in a slump, some combination of all of it. I think sometimes you get lost in these situations.
"It's not like we're playing bad baseball. We're just in a hitting funk right now. I think we'll be OK. I think with Carlos Guillen, that's a significant addition to your lineup."
To make room for Guillen on the roster, the Tigers designated for assignment the contract of outfielder Josh Anderson. Detroit traded for the speedster at the end of Spring Training as an extra outfielder, and he was a catalyst in the first few weeks of the season before struggling over the summer. Anderson hit .242 for the season, with four doubles, four triples and 16 RBIs in 165 at-bats.
The Tigers have 10 days to trade, release or outright Anderson. There's a decent chance he'll clear waivers, allowing the team to assign him to Toledo.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.