KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are reshaping their entire outfield and making Jose Guillen their full-time designated hitter.
While introducing newcomer Rick Ankiel on Monday, general manager Dayton Moore said the injury-prone Guillen would be replaced in right field by David DeJesus, last year's left fielder. Ankiel will play center and Scott Podsednik, another newcomer, will be in left.
"We feel that right now, going into spring training, this is the best way to position our outfield defense," Moore said. "These three guys are all capable of playing center field. We felt Rick's best use is to put him in center field at this time."
Guillen is slated to make $13 million this season. He was bothered by leg injuries much of last year and has been a streaky, spotty hitter since signing a $36 million free agent contract two years ago.
Ankiel agreed to a free agent contract last week after a novel career in St. Louis, where he came up as a pitcher but converted to the outfield in 2006. He was doing well until running into an outfield wall last May, and his production declined.
"That was tough," he said. "Just coming back was a long process, getting over the stiffness and soreness. I think I probably tried to come back and do some things I probably wasn't capable of doing."
He was carted off the field but gave the crowd a thumbs-up sign and was put on the disabled list on May 7. He returned on May 24 against the Royals but hit just .231 for the year, with 38 RBIs and 11 home runs in 372 at-bats. In 2008, he hit .264 with 71 RBIs and 25 home runs in 413 at-bats.
"It seems like I never got in a groove after I hit the wall," Ankiel said. "But that's all behind me now and I'm just looking forward to starting the season. I don't know if I came back too early. But being an athlete, sometimes you think you can overcome things when things aren't right. It's part of what we do sometimes. Unfortunately, I just wasn't able to get back to where I wanted to go and it just didn't turn out the way I wanted it to be."
Ankiel, who will turn 31 in July, said the Royals were not the only club that expressed interest.
"At first, it seemed like there was tons of interest everywhere. Toward the end, it was the Marlins, Washington, Yankees and here," he said.
"Me and my wife and family, we weighed out the options and this seemed like the best fit," he said. "The opportunity to play center, and the up-and-coming organization, where I think they're headed and what they're doing and all the good things I've heard about the front office. It just seemed like a good situation for me."