So when the White Sox manager was asked prior to Saturday's Civil Rights Game against the Mets where Alexei Ramirez stood in his mind just three or four weeks ago, Guillen admitted the "Cuban Missile" wasn't really in the Major League picture.
"In my mind, he proved me wrong," Guillen said.
Ramirez has moved from an unknown commodity as an under-the-radar free-agent signing -- the Cuban émigré who originally was thought of as a possibility at second base for the White Sox -- to the team's starting center fielder when the South Siders begin 2008 action Monday afternoon at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Guillen made that news official Saturday afternoon, along with a few other lineup tweaks for the season opener.
Guillen originally had talked about using Pablo Ozuna and his .300 career average at second base and in the leadoff slot against C.C. Sabathia, but decided to go with Juan Uribe at second. The one-time White Sox shortstop will hit ninth, with Nick Swisher moving to left field and assuming the leadoff role until the small tear in Jerry Owens' sore right groin heals.
Missing Owens for the start of the season changes the dynamic of the White Sox attack, with the speed guy missing from the top. But Swisher's career .361 on-base percentage might be exactly what Guillen is searching for to spark the offense.
"What are we going to do with a speed guy if he's never on base? You can't steal first," Guillen said. "We have a great second hitter, we are going to hit and run a lot. We'll put the runners in motion."
Orlando Cabrera follows Swisher in the lineup, with Guillen pointing out how the adept No. 2 hitter might sometimes put on hit-and-runs by himself. The middle of the lineup features Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski, followed by Ramirez, Joe Crede and Uribe.
Crede fouled a ball off of his left ankle during Thursday's Cactus League finale and had the injured area heavily taped for Saturday's contest. But he picked up two at-bats against the Mets and has his sights set on being ready for the season opener.
"Everything was feeling good in Tucson," said Crede of his baseball-related preparedness. "I was comfortable where I was defensively and at the plate. Now, I just have to try to carry it over into the season."
That job could belong to Ramirez, even when Owens returns, although Guillen is not one to take away a position because of injury.
"This year, the players always have somebody behind them to perform," said Guillen, who added Owens played well during Spring Training, even with his groin injury. "If you don't perform, we have somebody else to do it.
"But [Ramirez] earned the job. We didn't hand it to him -- he earned it. The Cuban Missile got it. I think this kid has a great chance to be special. I think he did everything he was supposed to do to be on the ballclub and in the lineup. This kid has cold blood."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less