GARY | Cristian Guerrero was calling Greg Tagert to recommend a friend to the RailCats manager.
That's when the conversation came around to what Guerrero's plans were for the next season. It wasn't long before Guerrero was released from Sioux Falls and had signed with the RailCats for his fifth season in Gary.
"This is great to be back," Guerrero said. "For me, to play here, it feels real comfortable. ... It's good to be here again, and I'm excited to be here for another year in Gary."
The team's career leader in home runs, Guerrero is part of a veteran outfield that started spring training Saturday. The RailCats know that their outfield is solid with the likes of Mike Massaro, Adam Klein and new acquisition Chris Colton, and that the biggest question marks in camp will come from pitching and the infield.
"I'm thrilled to have (Guerrero) back; his teammates are excited; the fans are excited, and you can't ask for a better fit than that, and we can look at 2012 as a blip," Tagert said. "(Guerrero) changed our mindset a little bit, and the intention was never to overhaul the roster and start with 22 new guys, but what we want are guys who are looking to continue their careers."
In 2012, the RailCats coaching staff was excited that the infield was mostly set, that the outfield was secured and that the biggest fights would be for position on the pitching rotation.
When the season ended with a .500 record, the RailCats started drawing a new game plan.
"We decided to spend our resources and classifications on the outfield, and bringing back (pitchers) Alain Quijano and Will Krout, and we had some areas we feel good about, but it creates a lot more work for the coaches during spring training," Tagert said. "That's a lot of evaluation that has to be done, and I want their eyes on everything at all times, so that means the hitting coach will have to be watching behind him at what's happening at second base and shortstop, at third base, at first base. As we told the players, it's easy to be excited today, but are you excited in August?"
Massaro and Guerrero each are entering their fifth season with the RailCats, and Klein is entering his fourth. All are looked at as the veterans in the clubhouse and what makes up the new RailCats "core," Tagert said.
The vibe is different already, Klein said.
"It's just really different, a different atmosphere this year, so far from what I've experienced," the 29-year-old Californian said. "Massaro, myself, and some guys that have been on the team, we're going to have a player team meeting and talk to the position players as to what to expect ahead of time, which is something we wish we'd have done last year, so that everybody's on the same page."
Moving on from the 50-50 finish of 2012 starts immediately, Massaro said.
"The best thing about last year is that it's over," he said. "We're never going to forget about it. It's in the back of your mind, and it's something that we do not want to happen again. We're going to look at it, take the good and learn from the bad and hopefully put together a lot better year this year."