Guerrero decides to opt out of Classic

Guerrero opts out of Classic

TEMPE, Ariz. -- With a heavy heart, Vladimir Guerrero announced Wednesday that he will not participate in the World Baseball Classic.

Guerrero lost three cousins in a car accident on Sunday. The three men -- Fernando Guerrero, 26, Salvador Carmona, 25, and Henry Guerrero, 23, all on his father's side of the family -- were driving from Don Gregorio to San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic when they were involved in a one-car accident in which their vehicle rolled over several times.

A fourth cousin, Wilmer Paulino, in his early 20s, survived the crash but remains hospitalized in San Cristobal, where he has undergone surgery on an ankle and both legs. No further details are available.

Guerrero said Wednesday that he would be unable to properly represent his country and focus on baseball.

"I feel mentally I can't go out there and compete at this point at a level that will be respectable to the people watching," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "At this point, I just don't want to cheat anybody, and at this point, to be able to give it 100 percent would be impossible, right now. I prefer to be around here to get ready for the baseball season."

Guerrero, who lives in the southern coastal town of Don Gregorio, is a hero to some people in the Dominican. He was excited to represent his country in the 16-team international tournament, but recent events changed everything.

"I was ready to go to the Classic. I have been working out since early in the offseason to go to the Classic," said Guerrero, who added that working out with the Angels on Wednesday was a good distraction. "But now, after this, it gives me a different perspective. Those two days, it kind of makes me feel more that my family is what counts more and I need to be around here.

"There are three dead and one kind of clinging to life right now, so I don't feel that at this point, I should be ignoring everything to go represent the Dominican. It's not an easy decision. The two days kind of helped me. Not wrestling with it, but to say that I think I need to make the right decision."

Guerrero was out of camp Monday and Tuesday as he mourned the loss of his cousins, whom he described as close as brothers. During that time he received a number of phone calls from friends and family, including fellow countrymen David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez.

The Angels are preparing to stand by Guerrero as he sorts through his emotions and discusses any further decisions with his family.

"Our involvement with Vladdy is supporting him with whatever happens," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had a tough thing this week. As far as this World Baseball Classic, it is a decision that Vlad has to feel comfortable with and we will support him in either way. Mentally, he didn't feel he was in a state to go there."

Guerrero is the second Angels player from the Dominican Republic to pull out of the Classic, and the third big name from that country to withdraw. Martinez is out for at least the first round while Manny Ramirez has said that he will not participate. Angels right-handed starter Ervin Santana has also chosen not to play.

The funeral for the three men was held Monday. Guerrero is still weighing the decision of whether or not to go back to the Dominican before the start of the season, and is relying heavily on his family to help him with the matter.

"There is a possibility [to go back to the Dominican]. That's one of the reasons, too, why I'm better off not going and interrupting the Classic and going [to Angels camp instead]. I spoke to my mom, and she recommended and she said, 'I think it was better that you didn't come right away because we might need you to come in the next few days,'" said Guerrero, who added that this is the toughest moment he's had with his family. "Nothing is guaranteed, but my mom said it was better I didn't come and see all three of them dead together, because she said it was a pretty graphic and devastating picture and something she didn't want me to take back."

Guerrero said that he hopes the Dominican people will understand and respect his decision. Angels teammates expressed their condolences.

"Everybody is very sad," said shortstop Erick Aybar, who is from the Dominican. "His family are big leaders."

Three of the four men in the accident lived in New York City and were visiting the Dominican. Guerrero expressed regret that he will be unable to see them when the Angels play in New York, as they all used to get together when he was there. He added that baseball ultimately will help.

"I ask God to give me strength to continue and get over this and put together a good season and do a good job," Guerrero said.

If he were to change his mind, Guerrero can be added to the roster in the second or the third round of the tournament.

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