Guerrero's hot bat forcing Dodgers' hands

Cuban slugger hits fifth homer in fourth start of season

Guerrero's hot bat forcing Dodgers' hands

SAN DIEGO -- Labels can be hard to shake, but Alex Guerrero is rewriting an early reputation that might have been unfair to begin with.

"The spurt I'm going through, I think it is impressive and I hope it impresses everybody and I want it to continue," Guerrero said after belting his fifth home run of the season in Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Padres in only his fourth start.

The scouting report on Guerrero was that he had a live bat, but a faulty glove. The Dodgers signed the Cuban shortstop for $28 million and immediately tried to turn him into a second baseman, because that was the club's need. The transition didn't go well.

So he became known as a hitter with no position and new management must have believed that too, because middle infielders Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick were acquired. Guerrero supposedly would make the Major League club only because of a contract clause that guaranteed it.

So it is with some satisfaction that Guerrero spoke with reporters on Sunday after a rare start at third base. In only 24 plate appearances, he already has 13 RBIs, second on the club. He has a 1.773 OPS.

And he turned in a defensive gem as well with a diving, back-hand stop to rob Jedd Gyorko of extra bases and end the second inning.

Guerrero's diving stop

With fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig on the disabled list, manager Don Mattingly indicated Guerrero has hit himself into more playing time. If not Juan Uribe's third base spot, perhaps left field?

"There's a good chance you're going to see him out there," Mattingly said. "Obviously with Yasiel down, it changes some things. A guy swinging the bat, you're going to find a place to play him, that's just the way it is."

Guerrero said he's fine with left field, where he saw action during Spring Training, saying that it's easier than the infield.

"If you can play the infield, you should have no problem playing the outfield," he said.

Mattingly conceded even he is surprised by how well Guerrero has adapted to third base after how much he was said to have struggled at second base.

"It's just been eye-opening for us how good he's looked on that side of the diamond," he said.

Guerrero indicated that some, including the media, might have hastily judged his ability based on second-hand information.

"They haven't seen me," he said. "If you buy something and pay a lot of money, you probably want to see what you're getting."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.