RailCats' heavy hitter finds stride at right time

2013-09-10T21:45:00Z 2013-09-11T11:17:40Z RailCats' heavy hitter finds stride at right timeHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com
September 10, 2013 9:45 pm  • 

GARY | Cristian Guerrero was signed in the offseason as a heavy hitter, one who owns the RailCats records for home runs in a single season and a career.

In fact, he holds the top two spots with the most single-season home runs, hitting 19 in 2010 and 16 in 2008.

This year, he hit just five.

He spent the middle part of the season finding his swing.

RailCats manager Greg Tagert started the season with Guerrero third in the lineup, wanting his righty to have as many at-bats as possible.

During the season, Tagert moved Guerrero to fourth, fifth and sixth, hoping the move would create a spark.

What finally lit the fire was a call to the video room.

"(Mike) Massaro called me in during that last Lincoln series, he showed me tape," Guerrero said. "He said, 'look last year you kept your foot down.' I wasn't putting my foot down, I was sort of twisting it. That made a difference."

Over the last month since Lincoln, Guerrero has two homers, 12 RBIs, five doubles in seven games and 12 hits.

In the American Association semifinal series against Fargo-Moorhead, Guerrero had two doubles, four runs and four hits.

He was 3-for-5 with a run against Wichita as the American Association Championship Series opened Tuesday.

"I look at what he did in the Fargo series and he hit the ball extremely well against El Paso, and in the Kansas City series, it's an extremely important time of the year for him," manager Greg Tagert said.

"He's a guy that has that experience in the postseason, going back to 2008 against the T-Bones and the series that followed, he's been very good in these moments and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets some big at bats."

Guerrero was not brought in solely for what he can do in the lineup, Tagert said. His leadership during the season has been invaluable.

When the RailCats were swept in three games by Sioux Falls June 7-9, Guerrero made an impassioned speech in the clubhouse after the final game. He said he didn't return to the team for another 50-50 record like the one the RailCats had in 2012.

The 'Cats responded with a win against Quebec in the next game, then finished the month winning 10 of their last 11 games.

Guerrero put that pressure to win as much on himself as he did his teammates. He spends countless hours in the batting cages after the game, working on his swing, hitting ball after ball after ball.

"We want both there, the talent plus the character," Tagert said. "We won't sacrifice one or the other, but you can't win if you only have one and not the other.

"Cristian brings a lot to the team and the excitement that we had when we brought him back ... there's something about guys that perform at the most critical time, and at our level this is the biggest thing."

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