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Guerrero Won’t Join the Classic -- for Now

Times Staff Writer

Following an afternoon and early evening of confusion and conflicting Internet reports, it appears Vladimir Guerrero, after toying with the idea of joining the Dominican Republic for the second round of the World Baseball Classic, will remain in Arizona to train with the Angels.

“I’ve said from the beginning that I would not play, and I haven’t changed my original plan,” Guerrero told Angel broadcaster Jose Mota by phone Thursday night.

Guerrero, distraught over the deaths of three cousins in a Feb. 26 car accident in the Dominican Republic, pulled out of the WBC on March 1 but was apparently so moved by watching his countrymen play -- and hearing how they hung his jersey on the cage for batting practice and in the dugout during games -- that he began to reconsider.

“I might play, I might not,” Guerrero said through an interpreter before the Angels’ 6-5 exhibition victory over San Francisco on Thursday. “I haven’t decided yet.”

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Guerrero was not in the lineup Thursday and left Tempe Diablo Stadium before ESPN.com posted a report stating the 2004 American League most valuable player would fly to Florida on Thursday night and play in today’s first-round finale against Australia.

The report quoted an unnamed member of the Dominican delegation as saying Guerrero “will play for the Dominican Republic from [today] until the end of the Classic.”

Angel teammate Bartolo Colon was also quoted in the story, saying, “I have kept in touch with Vlad these last few days to tell him that he has all of our support, and it is probable that he will be here soon.”

But Thursday night, ESPN.com backtracked, quoting Fernando Ravelo, travel coordinator of the Dominican delegation, as saying, “We’ve lost hope on Guerrero. Up until a few hours ago, we were hoping Vladimir would join the team because that is what we understood from conversations with those close to Vladimir.”

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Apparently, none of those conversations included Angel Manager Mike Scioscia or General Manager Bill Stoneman.

“As far as I know, he’s playing in our split-squad game [today],” Scioscia said. “He hasn’t given us any indication. I don’t know what transpired. But he’s ready. If he feels good to play in the second round [of the WBC], we support it.”

Added Stoneman: “I trust that if he decides to play, he’ll advise us, but he hasn’t given us that information yet.”

The Angels said they would support Guerrero no matter what he decides.

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“One way or another,” Stoneman said, “he’s going to be playing in games and getting ready for the season.”

Scioscia said baseball has helped Guerrero cope with the tragedy.

“Where Vlad is now, especially on an emotional level ... you never get over something like that happening to your family,” Scioscia said. “But it’s been cathartic for him being here and playing the game.”

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Cuban defector Kendry Morales, batting from the left side, lined a walk-off home run to right field in the ninth inning Thursday to lift the Angels over the Giants.

Orlando Cabrera, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis and Curtis Pride each had two hits, and Tim Salmon singled once in three at-bats, lowering his spring average to .500.

Right-hander Hector Carrasco gave up one run and four hits and struck out two -- including Barry Bonds swinging in the first inning -- in 2 2/3 innings, and Brendan Donnelly and Esteban Yan each threw strong scoreless relief innings, Donnelly pitching a hitless fifth and Yan allowing one hit in the sixth.

Veteran outfielder Steve Finley, traded from the Angels to the Giants after a disappointing 2005 season in which he hit .222 with 12 home runs and 54 runs batted in, singled in the first inning and hit a two-run homer against reliever Bob Zimmerman in the fourth.

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