Key members of the Ducks organization gathered at media day/fanfest Saturday at Bethpage Ballpark. But there was one noteworthy absence: Vladimir Guerrero.
The Ducks said their marquee offseason acquisition asked for and was granted additional time to stay in the Dominican Republic. His status for Opening Day on Friday in Texas against the Sugar Land Skeeters is uncertain.
"He's got some family issues, some things going on that he needs to take care of," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "But he's still on the radar and we're just waiting to hear."
Guerrero, the 2004 American League MVP and nine-time All-Star, signed with the Ducks on April 4, becoming the most decorated player in the 13-year history of the franchise. He was placed on the inactive list Saturday, allowing the Ducks to replace him on the roster until he is prepared to join the team, the team said.
"He's asked for a little bit more time, we granted that," founder Frank Boulton said. "Buddy's not getting on a plane and going down to carry him back," he joked.
"I might," bench coach Bud Harrelson fired back.
Harrelson's response reflects the high anticipation surrounding the arrival of a potential Hall of Famer as he launches a comeback on Long Island. Though Guerrero's Central Islip debut may have been postponed indefinitely, other familiar names were in uniform as the Ducks prepare to defend their Atlantic League championship.
"I've always loved playing at Shea and coming to New York," said Willis, who last played in the majors with Cincinnati in 2011 before spending two seasons in Triple A. "It was kind of a no-brainer for me to come here with the talent level."
"I heard this is the easiest way to go back to the big leagues," said Castro, who was behind the plate for Mark Buehrle's perfect game with the White Sox in 2009. "I want to keep playing until nobody wants me no more."
Willis is slated to pitch the home opener against the Skeeters on April 26, after the Ducks hold a pregame ring ceremony and raise their championship banner.
Ray Navarrete -- the team's all-time leader in hits, home runs and RBIs -- said that when the Ducks signed Guerrero, Willis and Castro during a three-day span last week, he felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
"It's always a great opportunity and a platform for us guys that came up a little bit short of getting to the big leagues," Navarrete said, "to have the opportunity to wear such a special uniform with these guys."