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Dodgers' Alexander Guerrero is not the same as Yasiel Puig

Although both are from Cuba, second baseman Alexander Guerrero is older, more soft-spoken than the brash Puig. They play differently too.

January 31, 2014|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Cuba infielder Alexander Guerrero relays a throw to first base on a double-play attempt against the U.S. during an exhibition game.
Cuba infielder Alexander Guerrero relays a throw to first base on a double-play… (STR / AFP / Getty Images )

Alexander Guerrero and Yasiel Puig come from the same country, but are nothing alike.

That much became clear Friday, when Guerrero made his first public appearance with the Dodgers since he was signed to a four-year, $28-million contract in October.

Talking about his escape from Cuba and his major league dreams while on the team's community-service caravan, Guerrero came across as soft-spoken and respectful, in contrast to Puig's loud and brash.

They play differently, too, according to Guerrero. Even in Cuba, he said, no one plays with the same level of aggressiveness as Puig.

"He's different," Guerrero said in Spanish.

Whether Guerrero can adjust to his new life as quickly as Puig did last year could determine the Dodgers' fortunes this season.

Guerrero has maturity on his side. He is 27, whereas Puig was only 22 when he broke into the major leagues.

But in some ways, Guerrero faces a far more difficult task. He not only has to grow accustomed to living in a new country, he also has to learn a new position.

A natural shortstop, Guerrero is being asked to play second base for the first time in his life.

If the Dodgers don't think Guerrero is ready to be a major league second baseman by opening day, they figure to start the likes of Dee Gordon, Miguel Rojas or Brendan Harris in his place. Guerrero doesn't expect that to be an issue.

"I've worked hard for two weeks at the spring-training complex already," Guerrero said. "There are still two weeks until full-squad workouts, so I'll have four weeks by then."

However, the Dodgers wanted Guerrero to have more experience by now. Because of hamstring problems, he played in only a dozen games in the Dominican Republic winter league.

"At shortstop, you look at the batter straight on," Guerrero said. "At second, you look at him from an angle. The movements are completely different. But if you can play short, I think you can play any position on the field."

Guerrero said he has thought of playing in the major leagues for more than four years.

But, he added, "It's a difficult decision to leave your family, your culture, your country."

Being excluded from Cuba's roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic is what convinced him to leave the communist island. Guerrero felt he was punished for his brother's failed attempt to defect.

Upset, Guerrero decided against playing in Cuba's top-flight league last year and planned his escape. His first two tries failed. On his third attempt, he reached Haiti by boat, accompanied by his brother and a couple of friends. From there, he went to the Dominican Republic.

Guerrero's wife and two children remain in Cuba, but he is hopeful he will be reunited with them in the near future.

He has been in the United States for only a couple of weeks and doesn't speak any English, but said he finds his new life promising.

"It's a process," he said. "But it's beautiful here."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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