SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Kendry Morales walked over first. Then Erick Aybar. Then just about every other Angel who had made the trip from Tempe for Monday's game against the Texas Rangers walked out to center field to catch up with the former heart of their team.
It's going to take more than one spring training game used to seeing Vladimir Guerrero in a Rangers uniform, but this was a pretty good start. About 10 minutes before game time, before any official at-bats, the Angels and their former superstar reunited for a quick, but heartfelt chat and hugs.
“It's the first game so I don't know how I'm going to feel,” Guerrero said before the game. “But I'll say hello to the guys and see how it goes.”
The Angels made little effort to re-sign the future Hall of Famer this offseason, instead opting to pursue Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui. Guerrero said he watched the developments from afar, but tried not to think too deeply about it.
If he was hurt by the Angels lack of interest in bringing him back, he wasn't letting on Monday morning.
“I don't know if they called to try to retain me or not,'' Guerrero said, through an interpreter. “I felt good playing with them and I played well when I was there. ... If they wanted to sign me, then yeah, I wanted to come back.
“I had good years there [with the Angels] and I just hope that God keeps me healthy so I can have a good season here with the Rangers.”
Though some felt the Rangers overpaid and/or are asking too much of Guerrero, it's hard to fault the reasoning behind the move. Over the years, Guerrero has flat out killed the Rangers. His 1.127 slugging percentage in 102 games against them is his second-highest slugging percentage against any opponent. Only the Phillies -- whom Guerrero destroyed with a 1.204 slugging percentage mostly when he was with the Montreal Expos -- have suffered more of his offensive wrath.
“I've hit well in that stadium and I'm hoping to hit well there now as a member of the home team,'' Guerrero said, when asked about the Rangers reasons for signing him.
“Last year, because of my knee surgery I couldn't do the same things to prepare. This year I did the normal things and worked hard to be ready for the season.”
Guerrero said he's adjusted to life in the Rangers clubhouse well, but it helps to have his mother staying with him in spring training and making Dominican food he takes the ballpark every day. Over the winter, Guerrero decided to become an American citizen so his mother could more easily travel to come see him.
“I just want God to keep me healthy and whatever happens, happens. I always smile, I'm always happy, I try not to change.”
-- Ramona Shelburne