Guillen may start season with Royals

Guillen may start season with Royals

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jose Guillen might be in the Royals' Opening Day lineup after all.

A report by The Associated Press indicated that Major League Baseball and the Players Association were nearing an agreement on a tougher drug policy. Part of the agreement would eliminate the 15-day suspensions imposed on Guillen and Baltimore's Jay Gibbons.

In another development, the suspension of catcher Miguel Olivo was reduced on Thursday from five games to four games by Major League Baseball. He will miss three games at Detroit and the first game at Minnesota next week.

Olivo was suspended for fighting late last season at New York, while he was playing for the Florida Marlins. His suspension means the Royals will open the season with 24 players instead of 25.

The Royals probably will start the season with Matt Tupman as the backup catcher to John Buck.

Guillen and Gibbons were suspended on Dec. 6 for 15 days at the start of the season for violation of the Commissioner's drug treatment and prevention program. The pair admitted that they had purchased performance-enhancing drugs via a pharmacy on the Internet.

"I'm excited about that possibility because the rumors have been pretty consistent about that for several days. We'll see how it goes," Royals manager Trey Hillman said on Thursday.

According to the report, the sides might announce the agreement on Sunday, the official Opening Day for the Majors in the U.S. The suspensions were scheduled to start on Sunday, although the Royals do not play until Monday in Detroit.

"If in fact that's the case, that solidifies another piece of our roster and it certainly helps you out," Hillman said. "A guy we're planning on hitting fourth at the start of the season -- that helps us. I haven't gotten any clarification from the Commissioner's Office on that."

Having Guillen's suspension lifted would at least clear up the outfield situation. Hillman had planned to start utility man Esteban German in right field in Guillen's place.

"I hope that the rumors are accurate," Hillman said. "I can't give my final, final on it until they gave their final, final on it.

As part of his Dec. 13 report on drugs in baseball, former Sen. George Mitchell recommended that players implicated not be punished by Commissioner Bud Selig, "except in those cases where he determines that the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game."

Selig has said he expects all of Mitchell's recommendations will be adopted.

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