Vlad reaffirms value beyond early stats
Slugger homers after rough first two games back from DL
CHICAGO -- Vladimir Guerrero had a resounding answer, with his bat, to those who were questioning whether he deserved to be in the cleanup spot in his return to the Angels' lineup this weekend.
With one swing on Thursday, Guerrero reminded critics of what he can do when he feels right. The slugger produced a towering home run to left field in the third inning against White Sox lefty John Danks in the Angels' 9-5 victory.
"It feels good to do it in my third game [back]," Guerrero said. "I always swing hard. Sometimes, they're going to catch them. It feels good to know my timing is good now, considering the time I missed."
Guerrero strained a muscle behind his left knee while playing right field on July 7 against the Rangers at Angel Stadium. It was his second trip of the season to the disabled list, having been sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle in April.
With 11 consecutive seasons of combining at least 25 homers with a .300 or higher average, Guerrero is joined by only one man in history: Lou Gehrig. That streak will expire this season, but Guerrero is trying not to dwell on the possibility of becoming a free agent after the season.
"I don't think about it too much," he said, when asked about the season of frustration, through Jose Mota's translation. "Otherwise, I'd go crazy. Thank God I'm alive. We have a few more months. Hopefully, it'll go in the right direction.
"I missed a lot of time, and I don't want to spend time thinking about the next few months. I don't want to get caught up in that. We're a team here."
Guerrero's return on Tuesday night coincided with diminished offensive production, generating speculation that the big bopper was disrupting the flow of manager Mike Scioscia's attack.
After scoring nine or more runs for four consecutive games, including 11, 11 and 13 in Minnesota during an explosive weekend at the Metrodome, the Angels stalled in their first two games at U.S. Cellular Field, scoring a total of six runs in a pair of losses.
"It's definitely worth the look of seeing if Vlad was going to pick up where he was before he was injured," Scioscia said. "It makes our lineup deeper by far. We're going to see how this progresses."
With Torii Hunter's return on the horizon, the Angels probably will go with Bobby Abreu in the No. 2 spot behind Chone Figgins, followed by Hunter, Guerrero, Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli or Jeff Mathis, Howard Kendrick or Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar.
"That's a tremendously deep lineup," Scioscia said. "We feel it's our best look. We'll adjust to any player who's struggling."
The offense certainly was back in form on Thursday with six runs before Danks got an out in the third inning, Guerrero having made his mark with his fifth homer and first since July 5.
"The previous injury was tougher, because it had to do with my upper body," Guerrero said. "It's been easier now, because it's my leg, and it's not hurting me."
Guerrero, who was 1-for-4 with a walk on Thursday, had eight plate appearances in the first two games, collecting two singles and a free pass, as well as ripping a vicious line drive that right fielder Jermaine Dye misjudged and played into a three-base error that produced a run.
In four of those seven at-bats, he has hit the ball squarely, striking out once and grounding into one double play.
Scioscia, and the Angels, will take it. They're glad to have the big bopper back.
"Vladdy is back, and everything is good now," a beaming Ervin Santana said on Thursday, having claimed his fourth win in 10 decisions.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.