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April 23, 2014

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BASEBALL:

Vladimir Guerrero gives 51s’ lineup, attendance a boost

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Chris Carlson / AP

Los Angeles Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero breaks his bat against the Baltimore Orioles during the third inning of their baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006, in Anaheim, Calif.

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Vladimir Guerrero spent 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles, batting .290 with 13 home runs.

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Vladimir Guerrero has homered against all 30 Major League Baseball franchises, started in seven all-star games and appeared in a World Series in 2010 as a member of the Texas Rangers.

On Saturday night, the 16-year big league veteran and nine-time all-star selection joined the Las Vegas 51s for his Triple-A debut against the Reno Aces. (Guerrero jumped from Double-A to the majors with Montreal in 1996.)

Guerrero went 1-for-5 with a double in his Las Vegas debut as the 51s won for the eighth time in their last nine games, this one a 6-5 victory in 10 innings.

“Vladi can recognize pitches and what pitchers are trying to do against him. He has a plan at the plate,” 51s manager Marty Brown said. “Some of our guys can benefit from watching him. That’s what we’re trying to teach them. It will be a benefit for however long he is here.”

Although Guerrero’s time in Las Vegas may be short-lived, Brown is hoping the 37-year-old slugger will serve as a positive influence on the team’s younger players.

“Guerrero brings a positive outlook to how he approaches the game,” Brown said. “He shows how to get ready and how to be a professional. He’s smarter because he’s been through so much of it before. He knows himself. Some of these other guys don’t know themselves as well. That’s what they’re here for, to try to get to know themselves.”

One player looking to benefit from Guerrero’s presence is 23-year-old right fielder Moises Sierra, who hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night. It was Sierra’s fourth homer in two days. He hit three Friday night against Tucson.

After going hitless in his first three plate appearances, Guerrero scorched a double off the top of the right-field fence to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. He flew out to deep center in his prior at-bat.

“That’s one of the things he brings to the table without even having to communicate,” Brown said. “Just watching him go about his job. Watching how he makes adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. How he gets prepared sitting on the bench.”

Guerrero bats without wearing batting gloves, a custom rarely seen in modern baseball. In an interview with Yahoo Sports, he attributed this to helping his grandfather pull cows home barehanded as a young boy in the Dominican Republic.

To improve his grip on the bat, Guerrero coats his helmet with pine tar and rubs his helmet before going into the on-deck circle.

“That’s what has made him successful over the years,” Brown said. “Not only is he a free swinger and has great hand-eye coordination, but he goes out there with a plan. The attitude with that plan is always to make something positive.”

Guerrero, who signed a minor league deal with Toronto on May 10, reported to extended spring training in Florida. He appeared in four games with Class A Dunedin, batting .450 (9-for-20) with a double, four home runs and eight RBIs.

“I’ve heard nothing but positive things about how he went about doing his work in Dunedin, and the response the young guys had for him,” Brown said. “He’s been around for a while now and he’s had a great deal of success. He’s been a threat in every order he’s ever been in and I don’t see that changing in Las Vegas.”

Guerrero finished in the top 10 in Most Valuable Player voting on six occasions, including four top-four finishes, winning the American League MVP in 2004 following his first season in Anaheim.

He hit .300 with at least 25 home runs over 11 consecutive seasons from 1998-2008, joining Lou Gehrig (1927-37) as the only players in major league history to complete such a streak.

“To have somebody like that on the team means a lot,” pitcher Jerry Gil said. “Especially the type of player Vladimir is. Everybody is happy to have Vladimir here.”

Guerrero, who was unavailable for comment, became Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader among Dominican-born players when he singled off Josh Beckett in a 6-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards on Sept. 26, 2011.

“It’s a dream to see someone playing in the big leagues and then be playing together here,” said Gil, a fellow Dominican Republic native. “It’s something special. He’s one of my favorite players of all time.”

Guerrero’s presence was felt Saturday evening at Cashman Field as the attendance of 8,963 was nearly double the average home attendance of 4,654.

The 51s play Reno at 12:05 p.m. Sunday and at 7:05 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, then play seven home games in as many days starting June 11.

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