Sports

Guerrero finally finds way back to bigs for Dodgers

Dodgers leave a huddle around relief pitcher Kenley Jansen at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Jansen gave up three runs in the ninth inning to blow a 2-0 lead. JOSH BARBER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

LOS ANGELES – Alex Guerrero’s first year in the United States has not been easy for him.

After defecting from Cuba last year, the 27-year-old signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Dodgers with the expectation that he would be their primary second baseman this season. But Guerrero was outplayed in spring training and found himself buried behind an All-Star (Dee Gordon) and the Dodgers’ best bench player (Justin Turner).

Then, just when he was tearing up the Pacific Coast League and was probably in line for a promotion to the big leagues, Guerrero and catcher Miguel Olivo fought in the dugout during a May 20 game as teammates with Triple-A Albuquerque. Olivo took a large chunk out of Guerrero’s ear – and his season.

Olivo was immediately suspended and later released (he resurfaced in the Mexican League). Guerrero went through multiple procedures to re-attach the chunk of his ear Olivo had bitten off and was unable even to work out for weeks. Guerrero didn’t return to the field until mid-July. By then, his best chance to join the Dodgers had passed.

Guerrero was promoted rosters expanded for September and he speaks of the incident only reluctantly and without detail.

“What happened, happened. It’s out of my hands,” Guerrero said through an interpreter. “Sometimes things happen in life that shouldn’t happen. But it’s all in the past. I turned the page and focused on the work in front of me. My focus now is to help the team and do the very best job I can.”

When he returned to Triple-A for the second half of the season, Guerrero watched infielders Erisbel Arruebarrena, Miguel Rojas and Carlos Triunfel each get called up several times and gain playing time in the big leagues ahead of him. The 27-year-old Cuban maintains he has no anger or resentment over what the altercation with Olivo might have done to his career arc. No charges were filed, but Guerrero does not close the door on pursuing legal recourse at some point.

“In terms of ill will, there’s nothing there,” Guerrero said. “As far as legally, that will be something for my lawyers. That’s their focus. My job, my focus now is to work hard and try to help the team.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has made it clear there will be limited opportunities for Guerrero to do that. Guerrero played multiple positions in the minors – shortstop (his primary position before defecting from Cuba last year), second base, third base and even left field in an attempt to find somewhere his defense won’t undo the positives he could possibly do at the plate. Guerrero hasn’t shown he can handle any of those positions well enough to play ahead of Mattingly’s other options, the manager said.

“The main thing Alex did was swing the bat down there. That’s the main area where he showed he’s ready,” Mattingly said of Guerrero, who hit .333 with 17 home runs and 57 RBI in 77 minor-league games. “So for the most part, we’ll see him hitting.”

So far that has meant three pinch-hit at-bats – two strikeouts – one in Australia and two this week.

“I’m very happy to be back here with the team,” Guerrero said. “You have to appreciate every opportunity you get to play in the big leagues. It’s really special.”

MIXED RESULTS

Mattingly finally admitted Wednesday the chances of Josh Beckett pitching again this season are “probably not very possible.” Beckett has been dealing with impingement syndrome in his left hip, including two cysts and a torn labrum in the joint.

Beckett has been progressing slowly in a throwing program that included throwing from a chair and on one knee so as not to stress his hip. He played catch standing up Monday but Mattingly said it was “pretty iffy” that Beckett could make enough progress to return this season.

Beckett, 34, could opt for surgery to address the hip problems now. He is not under contract beyond the 2014 season.

Meanwhile, left-hander Paco Rodriguez could take another step forward in his recovery from a strained muscle in his left shoulder. Rodriguez threw another bullpen session Tuesday and could throw to hitters later this week.

NOTES

Scott Van Slyke was not available in extra innings Wednesday. His wife went into labor during the game. …

Joc Pederson made his second consecutive start in center field with Yasiel Puig returning to the lineup in right field and giving Matt Kemp the day off. Kemp had started 40 consecutive games before that. “He looked a little heavy-legged during the day game in San Diego (Sunday),” Mattingly said of Kemp. “He's been going hard for us and he hasn't played this many games in a couple years.” Kemp has played 128 games this season after injuries limited him to 179 combined the previous two years.

Contact the writer: bplunkett@ocregister.com

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