Alex Guerrero starting to look like a lock

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One could argue that Alex Guerrero is forcing his way onto the Los Angeles Dodgers' major-league roster, but he doesn't really have to. His contract does that for him.

When the Dodgers were negotiating a four-year, $28 million contract with Scott Boras, Guerrero's agent, last winter, they agreed to give the ex-Cuban infielder a stipulation in his contract that he can't be sent to the minor leagues without his consent. Guerrero said in an interview with MLB.com earlier this spring that he has no intention of reporting to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

That gives the Dodgers two choices: Keep Guerrero on the major-league team or risk swallowing the $14 million left on his contract. The latter seems premature, particularly since the Dodgers could lose three-quarters of their starting infield to free agency next fall and Guerrero is just 28.

That's where Guerrero's performance this spring comes in. He has swung an impressive enough bat -- while playing four positions -- that his inclusion on the Opening Day roster is looking more and more like a foregone conclusion. Guerrero hit a three-run home run in the Dodgers' 7-7 tie Thursday with the Los Angeles Angels and is batting .400 this spring.

"I think he looks better, more comfortable just being here a year, being in his second camp, being in the States for a year and knowing what to expect," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Guerrero was batting .376 with 10 home runs through mid-May at Triple-A Albuquerque last season, but his season was derailed by a clubhouse fight with catcher Miguel Olivo. Guerrero lost part of his left ear and required two rounds of surgery to repair the damage.