Menu
Home

Baseball

Omar Vizquel comfortable with utility role

Omar Vizquel has an abundance of pride. He's also been around long enough to know that there is no shame in accepting a role as the Toronto Blue Jays' utility infielder.

The next time Vizquel plays shortstop in a regular-season game he will become the oldest player in major league history to man that position.

He turns 45 on April 24, just 19 days into his 24th big league season. When Vizquel takes the field at shortstop, he will surpass Bobby Wallace, a shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, whose last game on Sept. 2, 1918, preceded his 45th birthday by two months.

"It says that I'm really old, plain and simple," Vizquel said with a hint of a smile.

How old is old? Well, when he played his first big league game, for Seattle on April 3, 1989, Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays' starting third baseman this season, was not born yet, one of 14 major leaguers who came into the world after Vizquel's debut.

"From an age standpoint he could be my dad, I guess you could say," Lawrie said. "When you look at him you don't think, 'He's still around?' because he doesn't look like he's really that old. When you look on paper, he's been around for quite some time. It's pretty cool to have him on the team."

For his first 20 seasons, 11 with Cleveland, Vizquel was almost exclusively a shortstop, with an occasional game at second or third base. If, by the way, he wants to go for the title of oldest second baseman, he'll have to play three more years to catch Johnny Evers (of the Cubs' Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance) who was 48 in his final game in 1929.

For the past three years, one with the Rangers and two with White Sox, Vizquel has adapted to the role of utility player. It's a label some players consider slightly disparaging, as though it brands them as good enough to play several positions but not good enough to be a starter at any of them.

"I consider it an honor," Vizquel said. "Would you rather be at your house because you have the pride not to play any other position because you're not going to have an everyday job? ... I don't feel any of that."

It's an attitude that Blue Jays manager John Farrell finds, as he put it, "refreshing. For the experience and the elite level of play he's had for all of his career ... he wasn't afraid about coming in and competing for a job.

"He came in on a minor league contract telling you that he's readily able to put his ego aside. He loves the game and wants to go out and play it and he's here as a player with the side benefits of being a mentor," Farrell said. "He's fulfilled and really exceeded all of our expectations."

So what keeps Vizquel going ... and going?

"The energy, the passion," he said. "You feel like playing and there's nothing stopping you. I don't want to be sitting on the couch at home watching TV while I can still move and do what I'm able to do. I think I can still compete here at a high level, the highest level in the game. That brings me out here."

Vizquel spent his first five big league seasons in Seattle before being traded to Cleveland. He has few vivid memories of those years with the Mariners.

"I guess I didn't have the greatest moments with them as much as I did with the Indians," he said. 'It's very special because that's where I really became a good player and established myself in the big leagues. I was there for a couple off World Series with them (in 1995 and '97) and obviously they have a special place in my heart.

"This being my last year, having the opening day in Cleveland, it's going to be very emotional," he said.

This being his last year? Vizquel said the same thing last year, and the two before that.

"I know," he said.

NOTES: Ben Revere followed Aaron Hicks' fifth-inning double with a triple to left field and scored on Jamey Carroll's single, and Chris Parmalee homered in the sixth off Blue Jays starter Aaron Laffey, to lead a Minnesota split squad to a 4-1 win over Toronto, ending the Blue Jays' 10-game winning streak. Liam Hendriks, a candidate to open the season in the Twins' starting rotation, held Toronto to one hit over five innings. ... Blue Jays 2B Adam Lind (sore lower back) and OF Ben Francisco (hamstring) likely will play Sunday. RHP Dustin McGowan (right foot plantar fasciitis) is likely to start the season on the disabled list. ... The Blue Jays acquired RHP Ryota Igarashi from Pittsburgh for cash or a player to be named. ... RHP Anthony Swarzak (1-0, 3.86 ERA) will start Saturday for the Twins at Fort Myers against RHP Kevin Correia (1-0, 2.57) and the visiting Pirates. ... Toronto LHP Ricky Romero (1-0, 0.00) will face the host Phillies and RHP Roy Halladay (1-1, 5.40) at Clearwater.