Surprise, Ariz. Kansas City Royals right fielder Jose Guillen is looking to have a better start to 2009 than he had last season.
So he lost 10-15 pounds this winter.
“I didn’t show up with a big stomach like last year,” Guillen said Monday. “My pants are falling down. Last year, they were really tight. I’m in a little bit better shape than last year. I just tried to eat better. I was just trying to control my mouth a little bit.”
The Royals signed Guillen, who was a free agent, to a three-year, $36 million contract before the 2008 season to provide some punch in the middle of the lineup. Instead, he hit just .165 with three home runs in the first 31 games.
“It was not a good first month,” Guillen said. “Last year, in April I was completely out of shape. It was not good when you are overweight and when you start swinging the bat, you are not swinging the bat the way you are capable of swinging. I don’t think its going to be an issue this year.”
After that slow start, Guillen played his way into shape. In a 44-game stretch from May 7 to June 23, he hit .380 with 20 doubles, 10 homers and 45 RBIs. He finished with a .264 average and led the team with 20 homers and 97 RBIs.
“He looks good,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “I spoke with him a couple of days ago, and he said he was in better shape. By appearances, he definitely is in better shape.”
Hillman said he thinks that will help Guillen get off to a better start. Guillen plans to be in the Royals camp about two weeks before joining the Dominican Republic squad for the World Baseball Classic.
Guillen spent much of the morning before practice hugging and shaking hands with teammates and coaches.
“I’m meeting my new teammates,” Guillen said.
One of the newcomers is Mike Jacobs, who hit 32 home runs last season for Florida. Jacobs likely would bat fifth behind Guillen, giving Kansas City back-to-back right-handed power hitters.
“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be a lot better than last season,” Guillen said. “I think this is the most improved team this year.”
Notes: LHP John Bale was limited in Monday’s workout because of upper-back stiffness. “No major concern there,” Hillman said. “As early as it is, the message to Johnny is, ‘Get healthy.”’ ... C Matt Tupman, who singled in his only big-league at-bat last season, is coming off right shoulder surgery, and his throwing is being closely monitored.