Vlad closing in on Dominican hits record

Vlad closing in on Dominican hits record

Vlad closing in on Dominican hits record
DETROIT -- Orioles designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero is just four hits away from becoming Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader from the Dominican Republic.

Asked what it would mean to pass Julio Franco, who played in the Majors until he was 49, the reserved Guerrero flashed his customary smile and quipped, "I'm getting old."

And while the 36-year-old Guerrero intends to surpass Franco's mark by quite a bit, with plans to play in the Majors for another year or two "if he can," he acknowledged Thursday that he hasn't had a lot to time to think about what such an achievement will mean to his home country or himself.

"I'm feeling much better right now [at the plate]," said Guerrero, who was bothered by a hand injury earlier in the season and entered Thursday's game with a 10-game hitting streak and .366 average over that span. "I've got three more hits [to tie Franco] and then we will see."

While Guerrero isn't one to attract attention to himself, despite being a potential Hall of Famer and boasting one of baseball's most impressive pedigrees, his teammates have had no problem trumpeting their designated hitter's achievements. The Orioles had a "Vlad hit watch" sign posted in the visiting clubhouse in Boston and have been anxiously hoping every borderline single gets scored a hit instead of an error.

"We are trying to give it the honor it's due, whether it's home or on the road," manager Buck Showalter said of the looming record. "I think our guys realize how lucky they are to be around to see it. When you think about some of the guys he's passed on the all-time hit record period -- I think Manny [Ramirez is] behind him, and I just think about how proud I know [former Expos manager] Felipe [Alou] is of him. I remember seeing him for the first time in Montreal and going, 'I think it's time to change leagues.'"

"[It's] very rare you get a chance to play around a guy like that, watching him hit every day and go about his business," infielder Mark Reynolds said of Guerrero, who delivered a decisive two-run single in Wednesday's 6-4 win over the Red Sox. "It's fun. He's a great guy in the clubhouse, a great guy to be around and learn from. He's a special player. I'll definitely be getting a signed ball from him before the year is over."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.