MINNEAPOLIS | There is at least one mistake that Royals outfielder José Guillen is vowing he won’t repeat in 2009: He won’t be 25 pounds overweight when he arrives next February for spring training.
“I’m going to take a month off and then start working out,” he said. “I don’t want to put myself in that situation again.”
Guillen has already been in contact with a personal trainer.
“What happened this year won’t happen again,” he said. “It’s been a tough year. This organization made a big commitment to me, and I’ve got to make sure I make the best out of it.
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“I know this year has not been fun. It’s been up and down. I’ve got to make sure it’s better next year.”
The Royals signed Guillen to a three-year deal last December for $36 million in anticipation that he could provide some much-needed run production. He responded in his first year by leading the club with 20 homers and 97 RBIs.
But he batted just .264, a drop of 26 points from his 2007 average in Seattle, and created numerous distractions. That he is a lightning rod is unlikely to change.
“He’s passionate,” manager Trey Hillman said. “I believe that. The guy wants to win. He wants to perform.”
Guillen points to an added incentive in making sure he exits the winter in top shape: He wants to play next spring for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Guillen missed the 2006 tournament because he was recovering from shoulder surgery.
“I’m excited,” he admitted. “It’s always nice when you represent your country. The type of players we have in the Dominican, there’s always a pretty good chance that we can win.”
Mostly, though, he wants to carry the Royals’ feel-good September into next season.
“We’re all getting along much better,” Guillen said. “Late in the season, a lot of teams break apart because they just want to go home. But this team, right now, looks like it doesn’t want the season to end.
“Lately, I’ve seen us be able to do a lot of the little stuff that I wasn’t seeing earlier in the season. You know what they say: There’s always next year. And I believe it will get better.”
Gil Meche enters the off-season with the satisfaction of having erased a miserable April in posting some of the best numbers in his eight-year career.
“To be honest,” he said, “I feel like I’ve had an unbelievable year. If I could take away my first month, my season is incredible. It was just a horrible start. Luckily, I got on a good roll. I didn’t lose many games after that."
Meche finished at 14-11 with a 3.98 ERA in 34 starts. He set a career high with 183 strikeouts, which matched Zack Greinke for the club lead.
Not bad after entering May at 1-4 through six starts with a 7.22 ERA. His post-April numbers: 13-7 with a 3.36 ERA.
Think you’ve got the skills to play pro ball? The Royals are holding an open tryout camp on Oct. 11 Mid-America Sports Complex at 20000 Johnson Drive in Shawnee.
Each player is required to sign a liability waiver. A parent or guardian must sign the waiver for players under 21. Forms can be obtained at the camp or by e-mailing Linda Smith, the club’s manager of scouting operations, at email@example.com.
College players are not eligible to participate because the camp takes place during the academic year. High school players must have written permission from their school principal.
Registration is free and begins at 8 a.m. The camp will start at 8:30 a.m. Players must bring their own equipment.
It wasn’t more of a debut Saturday for three Royals’ prospects in Hawaii Winter Baseball when the North Shore Honu opened the season with a 12-3 loss to West Oahu.
Right-hander Jason Godin gave up four runs in the first inning before pitching a scoreless second. Lefty reliever Ben Swaggerty allowed three hits and four runs in his only inning.
Second baseman Kurt Mertins went hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts.
Godin, 24, was a fifth-round pick in 2006. He was 2-7 5.33 ERA in 14 starts this season at Class A Wilmington.
Swaggerty, 26, was signed in May 2007 as an undrafted free agent. He was 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 44 games this season while splitting time this season at Wilmington and Class A Burlington.
Mertins, 22, was a 13th-round pick in 2006. He batted .282 this season in 118 games at Wilmington with three homers and 46 RBIs.
It will be 32 years ago Monday — Sept. 29, 1976 — that lefty Larry Gura stemmed the Royals’ late-season slide with a four-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory at Oakland.
The victory enabled the Royals to clinch a tie for their first American League West Division title. It also stemmed a streak of six losses in seven games that had reduced their lead over second-place Oakland from seven games to 2½ games.
The Royals lost their final three games that season at home to Minnesota but still won the division when the A’s lost two days later to the Angels.