Guillen snares chance with O's Ex-White Sox star, 34, eyes utility infield spot

January 30, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Seeking the chance to play on a pennant contender and willing to settle for a utility role, three-time All-Star Ozzie Guillen signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles yesterday and received an invitation to spring training.

Guillen, 34, had spent his entire 13-year career with the Chicago White Sox, making the Opening Day start at shortstop every season and winning a Gold Glove in 1990. He hasn't played another infield position in the majors, but comes to the Orioles with the understanding that he's vying only for a utility job and won't be challenging shortstop Mike Bordick.

"It's been clearly defined to him that his role here would be as a reserve, as a utility guy," said assistant general manager Kevin Malone. "We told him that if he had interest in playing every day, he should go elsewhere to exhaust all his options."

This brings no objection from Guillen, who said that he turned down offers from other clubs who viewed him as a potential starter. He said the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals expressed interest, along with the White Sox.

Guillen made $4.5 million with the White Sox last year. He will get $450,000 for 1998 if he makes the Opening Day roster and can earn up to $250,000 in bonuses if he makes 550 or more plate appearances.

"The money wasn't right to play every day," he said. "I don't need the money, but I wanted to be with a winning team. I know most of the guys, I know the coaching staff. I love the city of Chicago and I get along with the fans, but I want to finish up my career with a team that wants me to play for them.

"I've watched the Baltimore Orioles for so many years, and that's the team to play with. There are so many good players there, and with my leadership and enthusiasm, hopefully the team will pick that up from me and we'll do something real good this year.

"I'm pretty sure I'll have the opportunity to make the team. I know I can play every day, but whatever the manager wants me to do, I'll be available to do it. When you play shortstop, you have the capacity to play anywhere. I know the game real well, and I've practiced at second base almost every day in Caracas [Venezuela, where he lives]."

Said Malone: "He can play any infield position. The guy's athletic. We just think he's versatile. He's a left-handed bat. He gives us protection if somebody gets hurt. He's a veteran player and we think he can help us win a world championship."

Guillen appeared in 142 games last season, batting .245 with 21 doubles, six triples, four homers and 52 RBIs. The RBI total was his highest since 1990, when he drove in 58, and the four homers tied a career high. He also struck out once every 22 plate appearances, the best ratio in the American League.

In a statement issued by the Orioles, general manager Pat Gillick said, "Ozzie is not only a quality baseball player, but a quality person as well. Throughout his career, he has played with great enthusiasm and a winning attitude."

For now, the club intends to carry two utility players, leaving room for Guillen and Jeff Reboulet, who was re-signed to a guaranteed contract during the winter. Guillen would take the place of Aaron Ledesma, who was selected in the expansion draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But if manager Ray Miller decides to keep 12 pitchers, "then that might not be true," Malone said.

Malone had been talking to Guillen's agent for a couple of days.

"It went real quick. They gave me two or three days to make a decision and I did it in one," said Guillen, who ranks second behind Luke Appling among White Sox shortstops in games played (1,743), putouts (2,734), assists (4,963), double plays (1,027) and total chances (7,900). He tore ligaments in his right knee in 1992 and appeared in only 12 games.

"I already had made up my mind, as soon as they made me an offer. My family wanted me to play with Roberto [Alomar] and Cal [Ripken] some day," he said.

Guillen has gotten to know Miller through the years and said they have a good relationship. "I've never had any problem with any manager," he said.

He shouldn't expect a problem when it comes to fulfilling two wishes. He wants to continue wearing No. 13, which became available when bench coach Andy Etchebarren wasn't retained by Miller, and to wear his socks pulled up high.

"Hopefully, the team will let me do it," he said.

"I have read the club rules," Malone said, "and I have not seen it mentioned anywhere about the wearing of the pants in a particular way."

Guillen file

Age: 34

Records: Major-league mark for fewest walks (150 or more games), 10 in 1996. AL single-season record for fewest putouts by shortstop (150 or more games), 220 in 1985.

Honors: AL Rookie of the Year, 1985. AL Gold Glove, 1990. AL All-Star, 1988, 1990 and 1991.

Et cetera: Led AL shortstops in total chances in 1987 (760) and 1988 (863). Led AL shortstops with 105 double plays in 1987.

Career statistics:

(All years with White Sox)

Yr. .. .. ..Avg. .. ..2B .. ..3B .. ..HR .. ..RBI .. ..SB .. ..E

'85.. .. . .273 .. .. 21 .. .. 9 .. .. 1 .. .. 33 .. .. 7 .. .12

'86.. .. . .250 .. .. 19 .. .. 4 .. .. 2 .. .. 47 .. .. 8 .. .22

'87.. .. . .279 .. .. 22 .. .. 7 .. .. 2 .. .. 51 .. . 25 .. .19

'88.. .. . .261 .. .. 16 .. .. 7 .. .. 0 .. .. 39 .. . 25 .. .20

'89.. .. . .253 .. .. 20 .. .. 8 .. .. 1 .. .. 54 .. . 36 .. .22

'90.. .. . .279 .. .. 21 .. .. 4 .. .. 1 .. .. 58 .. . 13 .. .17

'91.. .. . .273 .. .. 20 .. .. 3 .. .. 3 .. .. 49 .. . 21 .. .21

'92.. .. . .200 .. ... 4 .. .. 0 .. .. 0 .. ... 7 .. .. 1 .. ..0

'93.. .. . .280 .. .. 23 .. .. 4 .. .. 4 .. .. 50 .. .. 5 .. .16

'94.. .. . .288 .. .. .9 .. .. 5 .. .. 1 .. .. 39 .. .. 5 .. .16

'95.. .. . .248 .. .. 20 .. .. 3 .. .. 1 .. .. 41 .. .. 6 .. .12

'96.. .. . .263 .. .. 24 .. .. 8 .. .. 4 .. .. 45 .. .. 6 .. .11

'97.. .. . .245 .. .. 21 .. .. 6 .. .. 4 .. .. 52 .. .. 5 .. .15

Tot.. .. . .265 .. ..240 .. ..68 .. ..24 .. ..565 .. .163 ...203

Pub Date: 1/30/98

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