Printer Friendly

STAR SEARCH ANGELS LOOKING FOR GUERRERO TO GET HOT FREEWAY SERIES: DODGERS AT ANGELS, 7 P.M., CH. 9, FSN WEST.

Byline: RICH HAMMOND Staff Writer

ANAHEIM - As the legend goes, Vladimir Guerrero once swung at a pitch that bounced a foot in front of home plate and not only hit the ball, but drilled it off the outfield wall for a double.

Guerrero has made a career of making the ridiculous appear commonplace, but right now the game seems perplexing for the Angels<WC> 3/8<WC1> right fielder, the man considered <WC>to be <WC1>perhaps the best natural athlete in baseball.

Two years after his 2004 American League MVP season, Guerrero is floundering. He's hitting .232 in June and already has doubled his 2005 total for errors, one of which recently prompted a round of boos from the home fans. At the same time, Guerrero is the AL's second-leading vote- getter for the All-Star Game.

``Any player is prone to a dry spell, no matter how talented, and Vlad's recent stretch here is indicative of that,'' Angels' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``Vlad is a keystone to our lineup, and when he's off for a long period of time it's something, as a team, that's difficult to absorb. We need to get him back to what he can be.''

Guerrero's struggles have prompted a wide variety of analyses. Scioscia and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said Guerrero is pressing because other Angels are struggling or injured, lending credence to the thought that general manager Bill Stoneman didn't make the proper moves last winter to protect Guerrero in the lineup.

Stoneman balked at that suggestion, and said Guerrero is simply going through a rough spot, similar to the one he endured last July, when he hit .208 before he rebounded to hit .335 over the last two months.

``This has happened before,'' Stoneman said. ``This kind of thing turns around for him.''

As for Guerrero, who knows? He rarely offers much to reporters, even in the best of times, and he recently rebuffed two interview requests, but teammates insist, perhaps hopefully, that there is no reason to panic.

``I mean, he's Vlad Guerrero,'' said Orlando Cabrera, the Angels' shortstop and one of Guerrero's closest friends on the team. ``He's the guy. He's still having a great year, no matter what place we're in.''

At the moment, that would be last place in the AL West, and while Guerrero's overall numbers remain solid -- a .290 average, 16 home runs and 56 RBIs entering tonight's interleague series opener against the Dodgers -- it's unlikely that the Angels will climb in the standings until Guerrero turns things around.

``When you're (the superstar) and you do something that's a little out of character and the team is losing, you're going to take the criticism,''Angels outfielder Tim Salmon said. ``When the team is winning, people won't remember the blips on the radar screen. When you have a guy like Vlad, he's kind of like the quarterback. When you win, he gets a lot of credit and when you lose, he takes a lot of blame. ``He's been fine. He still has that contagious smile. I haven'tseen any signs of frustration.

The problem might be the supporting cast. Table setter Chone Figgins is hitting .253; Garret Anderson, in and out of the lineup with injuries, is hitting .263; injuries have limited Darin Erstad to 27 games.

The long bright spot has been Cabrera, whose .305 average recently elevated him to the No. 3 spot in the order.

Add to that the fact Stoneman chose to fill out the roster with youngsters such as Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Dallas McPherson and Kendry Morales, none of whom have panned out as planned thus far, and the onus has been on Guerrero to provide a big part of the Angels' offense every night.

While Hatcher works with Guerrero daily, most recently with drills designed to have Guerrero hit the ball to the opposite field more, Hatcher's main task is to get his pupil's mind clear.

``He takes a lot of pride, and he wants to win more than anybody else,'' Hatcher said. ``Sometimes he tries to put the whole team on his back, and that's a tough thing. We're trying to get that old Vlad smile back.

``We just want him to have fun. I talk to him, and Mike talks to him, and we say, `Vlad, don't think you have to be the guy all the time.' He wants to hit the ball so bad every time he goes up there. That's just typical of a guy with great leadership, who wants to do everything possible for the team.''

Stoneman rejected the idea that Guerrero needs more support in the lineup, and it's hard to argue with Stoneman's analysis of Guerrero's game. After all, Stoneman served as vice president of baseball operations in Montreal when Guerrero rose through that organization and became a five-tool star.

``He's a little streaky,'' Stoneman said. ``It happens, but it's notable when it's somebody of his stature. Every hitter has highs and lows. The uniqueness to Vlad is that he will hit any pitch that's thrown. When he's hot, he's hitting home runs and doubles to the gap. When he's not, he hits ground balls to shortstop.''

But this is the deepest Guerrero has gone into a season with such a poor batting average, and his areas of difficulty have been clear. Guerrero continues to pepper left-handed pitchers, hitting .427 with six home runs in 75 at-bats against lefties. In 225 at-bats against righties, he's hitting .244 with 10 home runs.

Why? It could be that Guerrero, feeling the pressure of trying to be a big run producer, is trying to pull every ball for a home run. It's something Hatcher is working on, and the coach noted recently that he likes to see Guerrero ``pounding balls off the right-field wall in batting practice.''

To that end, there is hope. On Tuesday, Hatcher raved about Guerrero's pregame work, and the next day Guerrero went 3 for 4, although all three hits came against Colorado lefty Jeff Francis.

``He's going to break out real soon,'' Hatcher said.

Nothing less than the Angels' success this season depends on it.

rich.hammond@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3611

CAPTION(S):

photos, 2 boxes

Photo:

(color) Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero is hitting .290, the lowest he ever has hit this late in a season. But he does have 16 home runs and 56 RBIs.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Box:

(1) UP AND DOWN

(2) ANGELS vs. DODGERS
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 30, 2006
Words:1077
Previous Article:IT'S THE USA WAY GERMAN COACH BRINGS NEW STYLE.
Next Article:GRAND JURY: $500 MILLION IN FRAUD CHILD-CARE PROGRAMS CALLED `ATMS FOR THIEVES' IN REPORT.
Topics:


Related Articles
WHO HAS EDGE AROUND HERE?
WHY FOOL WITH SUNDERLAND?
WITH WIFE'S APPROVAL, SCULLY STAYS ON.
ANGELS NOTEBOOK: FSN WEST TALKS HIT SNAG.
ANGELS NOTEBOOK: DEFENSE HAS BEEN NEGLECTED.
LACKEY, ANGELS DRIVE AWAY WITH THE SERIES ANGELS SHUT OUT DODGERS TO RECLAIM BRAGGING RIGHTS FREEWAY SERIES: ANGELS 4, DODGERS 0.
FSN UNCOVERS TREASURES.
THE TROJAN COURSE TOM KELLY'S VOICE, THE SOUNDTRACK OF USC SPORTS, HAS COME FULL CIRCLE.
BATTLE FOR L.A. BEGINS DODGERS', ANGELS' EXPECTATIONS HIGH.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters