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Guillen appears ready to get going

Guillen appears ready to get going

ARLINGTON -- Could this be it? Could this road trip be the ignition point for a Jose Guillen explosion?

Guillen likes to think so. The Royals are playing in what he considers two hitter-friendly locales -- Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and then Progressive (nee Jacobs) Field at Cleveland.

As the Royals began a three-game series at Texas, Guillen's average was a mere .177 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. But he sensed a change was in the wind.

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In fact, the wind looked like a gale in Tuesday night's 9-5 victory over the Rangers. He had five RBIs, two on a base-loaded single in the second inning and two more on a booming 400-foot home run in the fourth.

"I feel pleased with where my swing is right now," Guillen said before the game. "I feel my swing is right where it needs to be right now."

"This is a nice ballpark to hit in, and Cleveland is a great place to hit in -- and they both carry real well. Hopefully, I can get some of the swings and the fly balls I've been having on the warning track at home. I'll be ready, and I feel real comfortable that I'll have a good road trip."

It's been a rough go for Guillen, the three-year, $36 million free agent who was supposed to kick the Royals in gear. But there have been encouraging signs, including a home run last Saturday night.

"I feel much better. The last four or five [games] I've been swinging the bat much better," he said. "I've been hitting the ball hard, right at people.

"I know my batting average is not what people want it to be -- or the RBIs and the home runs. But just remember, I don't even have 100 at-bats. You can have four or five hits, and everything is going to turn around and be what everybody wants it to be."

Royals hitting coach Mike Barnett agrees there has been a small sample so far.

"I tell these guys, 'Look, your average is going to go up and down so much this first month or two months of the season, you can't even really look at stats or a batting average until you get right around 200 at-bats,'" Barnett said.

"The thing I'm seeing is he's looking more comfortable at the plate. He's starting to use the whole field and, when he's going good, he's a guy that's using the whole field. He's not a pull, pull, pull guy. And he's starting to drive some balls."

Guillen usually is a slow starter. His career average in April heading into this season was .266, and it's been his lowest month in terms of homers and RBIs.

"I always have a slow April, but not as slow as this one," he said. "I know I have to do something. I hate cold weather, and I'm not trying to make an excuse. It is what it is, and that's baseball. This cold weather is not for baseball -- it's for football, and we don't catch any breaks."

There were some extenuating circumstances. For one thing, he faced a 15-day suspension at the start of the season. For another, Guillen was waylaid for a week or more by the flu during Spring Training.

"He's had a lot going on, with the thing looming over his head to start the season," Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said. "I think there was probably a lot going on mentally that he didn't want to talk about."

Guillen was healthy by Opening Day, and the suspension, twice delayed, eventually was commuted.

"We brought him in for the bat and impact in the middle of the lineup, and obviously the sooner he gets going, the more he helps us out," Hillman said.

"He's working at it just like everybody else -- working extensively in the cage with Barney -- but it's just the old adage that when you want to do it so bad, it complicates the issue of just wanting to do it. If he offers at good pitches, we know what the history is."

The history, for a full season, is reflected in last season's 23-homer, 99-RBI, .290-average campaign for the Mariners. When reality didn't match the expectations this year, some Royals fans began to unleash some boos.

"That's fine. That's part of the game," he said. "I'm getting paid a lot of money, so they're expecting a lot more from Jose Guillen."

Guillen said booing bothers him only when it's directed at teammates. Personally, he shrugs it off. He's been with eight other teams, and he's been booed all over the country.

"I know how to deal with that stuff. I've been booed in a lot of stadiums, and I'm used to that already. That type of stuff doesn't get to my head a whole lot," Guillen said. "I know they're expecting more from me, and I'm pretty sure I'll give them whatever they deserve from me."

Barnett sees the signs in the hard drives Guillen is starting to pound around the parks.

"When you see a guy start to do those things, it's just a matter of time," Barnett said. "Look out."

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

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