The 2021 MLB season feels forever away, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already made his mission for the year crystal clear: He's taking back third base.
During an interview conducted in Spanish, the Toronto Blue Jays slugger opened up about why team brass moved him from third base to first and his desire to return to his original position.
"When they moved me to first base they did it because they didn't want me to struggle that much," Guerrero told Yancen Pujols of El Caribe (translation confirmed by Sportsnet). "You know in 2018 I had an injury in one of my knees and they're scared of that. And that's the reason they moved me to first base."
Guerrero was slated to start the shortened 2020 MLB season at third, where he suited up as a rookie in 2019, but was moved over to first two weeks prior to Opening Day -- a move that allowed the Blue Jays to focus on the young hitter's offence.
"Right after the season ended I told them I played first base this year but next year the third base is mine," he said. "I'm already improving my skills as a third baseman. I still have my first baseman's mitts out there in case one day I have to play first base or if in a game something happens and I have to be moved to first base but I'm going back to my position, which is third base."
He's already putting in the work to improve his game, both offensively and defensively. Guerrero told Pujols he's lost 32 pounds – 12 pounds so far this off-season – and is "much better" than the player baseball fans have seen so far. The 21-year-old pointed to the hard work and success of other young Dominican players his age -- including Padres short stop Fernando Tatis Jr. and Nationals outfielder Juan Soto -- as inspiration.
"I mean, just take a look, why has Tatis Jr. performed so well? Or Soto?" he said, also highlighting Venezuelan outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., 22, who burst onto the scene with the Atlanta Braves in 2018 and earned National League rookie-of-the-year honours with his impressive campaign. "And that's the reason they've done so well so far, because they work hard in the off-season. But thanks to God at least I learned it while I'm still young in my career, I learned how important it is to work in the off-season if you want to play in the major leagues."
Guerrero also spoke about how the months-long delay of the season affected his conditioning, saying he was in shape for the first spring training but struggled heading into the second one, confirming he was not physically prepared to play this past summer once the league got the go-ahead to begin.
"When the season started I realized I didn't do my job," he said, adding that he apologized to his teammates for not coming to camp in shape. "I made the decision to play under those conditions regardless of anything that happens."
"Right after I came to the [second] spring training I realized it," he explained. "Right after I came to the [second] spring training I talked to my teammates and I apologized to them for what I did and I told them it was never going to happen again."
In 221 at-bats in 2020's 60-game season, Guerrero registered 58 hits, nine home runs and 33 RBIs.
"I'm telling you, everything I hit, all the homers I hit was just because of my natural skills," he said. "But if I would have properly trained maybe I would have [gotten] different results."