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February 14, 2007 at 3:36 PM

Peace at-hand for Guillen

One of the first things the Mariners did before announcing they had signed right fielder Jose Guillen in December was telephone pitcher Jarrod Washburn in Wisconsin to let him know what was coming. Washburn had been a vocal critic of Guillen’s attitude when the pair last plied their trade as teammates with the Anaheim Angels in 2004. Guillen got himself booted off the team in the final weeks of that season by ripping manager Mike Scioscia not long after he had openly questioned the heart of some of his team’s pitchers. Washburn essentially stood up for the pitching staff and organization as a whole and told Guillen, through the media, not to let the door hit him on his way out of town.
Fast forward to Wednesday, where Mariners officials were a tad interested in how the whole Guillen-Washburn reunion would go. They didn’t have to wait long to find out, as both players were among those reporting in for physicals.
“He was one of the first guys I saw when I got here today,” Washburn said, standing by his clubhouse locker as Guillen played cards at a nearby table. “I don’t forsee any problems. I think it’s water under the bridge and you move on. We’re both grown men. What’s in the past is in the past. You can’t do anything about it now.”
Guillen nearly helped trigger a brawl when he faced the Angels again for the first time while playing for the Washington Nationals two years ago. But from the time that he signed with Seattle, on the eve of the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., he has talked about wanting to put that past and his troubles with Washburn behind him.
“Now, I think we still have pretty much the same goal in mind,” Washburn said. “Win the division and beat out the Angels.”
Guillen has been filling up pages of online space for ESPN.com in recent weeks without even stepping on the field. First, he agreed to let the sports website watch his gruelling workouts on the beaches of his native Dominican Republic. Guillen is also featured prominently in both parts of a two-day ESPN.com report on steroid use by Dominican players, in which the veteran outfielder offers numerous candid observations on the need for young prospects to take more responsibility for the substances they put into their bodies.
The Dominican steroid problem is one that lies close to my heart, having witnessed some of it firsthand while researching my own, two-part series for the Toronto Star in May, 2005.
The striking thing for me about our series and the one by ESPN.com, nearly two years apart, is the sense that little has changed in the Dominican Republic where performance enhancing drugs are concerned. A big reason is that MLB still doesn’t penalize professional prospects in the Dominican Summer League who test positive for performance enhancing drugs — claiming local labor law prohibits suspensions from being handed out. Nor does MLB conduct testing of amateur Dominican teenagers before they sign pro contracts.
There is also no pre-contract screening in Venezuela, but the situation in the pro Venezuelan Summer League is far different, as we found out in October. The players who test positive there are fully punished and face career ruin should they be caught. Unlike the Dominican, where the controversy is about players getting away with drug cheating, the biggest fuss in Venezuela is over whether players there are being informed and educated enough about MLB’s testing rules.
As a response to this, ESPN.com reports that MLB will enlist the help of prominent Venezuelans, like Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, to help spread the message to his countrymen. Seattle outfielder Guillen is already on-record saying that Dominican prospects have to stop blaming others for their positive tests and accept responsibility for their actions. He is one of the first of what could become a wave of veteran Dominican and Venezuelan voices to be heard on the Latin American aspect of a steroids problem that isn’t going away for baseball any time soon.
Spring training officially gets underway on Thursday morning at the Peoria Sports Complex as pitchers, catchers and early arrivals gather for an 8:30 a.m. meeting with manager Mike Hargrove. The rest of the day’s schedule goes as follows:
9:30 a.m. — Team stretch
10 a.m. — Pitchers fundamentals and bullpen sessions
11 a.m. — Conditioning for Group A pitchers; Group B pitchers shag outfield flies; Batting practice in 15-minute groups for catchers and early-arriving position players
11:30 a.m. — Conditioning for Group B pitchers and all catchers

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