Vladimir Guerrero made a rare appearance in the outfield last night because the Rangers were playing under NL rules in San Francisco, but after multiple miscues defensively manager Ron Washington has decided to bench the nine-time All-Star and former MVP for Game 2 tonight.
David Murphy replaces Guerrero in the lineup and will start in left field, with Nelson Cruz moving from left field to right field. Cruz will also take over for Guerrero in the cleanup spot behind Josh Hamilton.
And it’s absolutely the right move.
Guerrero didn’t just look bad in right field last night, he looked horrendous. It was sad to watch. Plus, it’s not clear that Guerrero is even a better option than Murphy offensively at this point, at least against a right-handed pitcher like tonight’s Giants starter, Matt Cain.
In his prime Guerrero was a middle-of-the-order monster regardless of the handedness of the pitcher, but this season at age 35 he hit .287/.328/.482 versus righties. That production is right around average for a corner outfielder, which makes Guerrero solidly below average once his defense is factored in. He also struggled overall in the second half and has produced a measly .601 OPS in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the left-handed-hitting Murphy batted .298/.368/.479 versus righties this season, which is 37 points of OPS better than Guerrero. Murphy is also an above-average defender. Based purely on current ability rather than reputations and names my guess is that Ron Washington would have made this move for Game 1, but he at least deserves some credit for not making the same mistake twice.
And perhaps Guerrero will have a chance to make his presence felt with a big at-bat off the bench.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.
Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.
Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.
So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]
Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.
I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.
Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”
Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.
It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.