Guerrero chasing Dominican hits record; wants to play few more years
Orioles designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero is on the precipice of becoming the major league’s all-time hits leader from the Dominican Republic, and he hopes to build on that record for another couple of seasons.
Heading into Friday’s series in Detroit, Guerrero has 2,583 hits, three behind the all-time Dominican leader, Julio Franco, who was Guerrero’s teammate for two years in winter league ball.
“Right now, I don’t know how to feel,” Guerrero said through interpreter Rudy Arias. “We’ll see when the time comes.”
Guerrero, 36, is finishing strong, batting over .400 in his last 16 games and climbing toward a .300 average for what would be the 14th time in his past 15 seasons. His 13 home runs, however, would be his fewest in a season since he hit 11 in 90 games as a rookie in 1997.
Signed to a one-year deal this winter, it would be surprising if the rebuilding Orioles re-sign Guerrero. But Guerrero is not thinking about retiring.
“I feel I can play two or three more years,” he said. “And I just need to work a little harder this offseason when I go to the Dominican and see what happens.”
Guerrero also is just one homer away from 450 for his career. The only Dominican-born players with more are Sammy Sosa (609) and Manny Ramirez (555).
“Four-hundred and fifty is a big number; I’ll be very happy when I get it,” Guerrero said. “But those numbers just come and you just keep adding. If it comes to me, 450 is a great number.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he is hoping that Franco will come to Camden Yards next week to honor Guerrero if he sets the hits record. Guerrero was asked whether he would like to share the moment with anyone else, and he mentioned Felipe Alou, his former Montreal Expos manager.
“He was my first manager; he gave me the opportunity,” Guerrero said. “He was the one who brought me to Montreal, and I’d be real happy if he could see it.”
When asked how he has been able to climb up so many impressive offensive lists in his career, Guerrero smiled and said: “I believe in God, that he gave me the ability to do this, and I work very hard for everything I have done and for my longevity.”
Showalter stressed just how important he thinks the Dominican hits record is for Guerrero and for the Orioles.
“This milestone coming up is a huge deal to us,” Showalter said. “Obviously, it is more for Vlady, but if you think about all the great players who have played here from the Dominican Republic and we have got a chance to have on our team one that’s got a chance to go down as the all-time hits leader. That’s something we are so proud of as an organization.”