Ballantini: Happy Easter and happy...49th?

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Ballantini: Happy Easter and happy...49th?

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 12:46 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROITBaseballs Peter Pan, Omar Vizquel, will celebrate his 44th birthday with a start at second base in the Chicago White Soxs series finale at Comerica Park vs. the Detroit Tigers.

Or, maybe its his 49th? After all, the white board outside of the White Sox clubhouse carried two messages on Sunday: Happy Easter and Happy 49th Omar!

Vizquel, who just yesterday was dancing through the clubhouse with headphones on, slappin the bass while doing a box step, even cutting in on Gordon Beckham and dancing with the good ol boy from Georgia, remains young at heart and sound of body.

Ive been fortunate and lucky, and Ive been doing whats necessary to stay in the game a long time, Vizquel said, sitting still for a moment during a morning of bounding in and out of the clubhouse. I feel fortunate to be here still playing this game. Its been amazing. I would have never believed it. I believe the workouts and training are what brought me here.

Manager Ozzie Guillen, retired for 11 years yet just three years older than Vizquel (and, as he does with everyone, refers to him as this kid), remains in awe of his utility infielder.

He still produces because of commitment, discipline and love and passion for the game, Guillen said. Thats all you can put together for that guy to continue playing the way hes playing. Thats amazing. When you look at a guy with that age, most of the guys are pitchersand they really look old. But this kid, the way he plays, the way he goes about his business. He was blessed by God.

A future Hall-of-Famer who can still roam successfully at shortstop is merely blessed?

Omar is not the type of guy who was gifted with talent, Guillen said. Ive known him for a long, long time, back when he was 16 years old. He worked his way out of Venezuela. Obviously, in the process, he got better and better and better, to place himself as a Hall of Famer.

Guillen described Vizquels fundamentals as poorhe crouches, bends, and fields with a narrow base, contrary to how young players should be trained. But Vizquel has known no other way, working out with great intensity each offseason.

Well, my workouts change every year, he said. You have to work on your resistance, your core, your power. Every year has been an adjustment to how your body is feeling, and the things you need to do to accomplish a goal. Normally, I do an hour or maybe one and a half hours of exercises for three or four days a week. Thats what has kept me in the game.

The main thing for Vizquel, and a reason why the veteran is a good match for the White Sox, is that he still finds the game fun.

It is, he acknowledged. Its crazy, but every Opening Day, I still have the chills every time. This year was special because it was in Cleveland where Vizquel made his fame. Every year on Opening Day I am happy and excited. I am grateful and still have fun thats the main thing.

The last few years when I saw him, hes had more fun in the game because he goes out and plays and laughs, Guillen said. He plays each game like its going to be his last.

Thus, Vizquel sees no reason not to keep playing. A year ago at this time, the veteran was sizing up 2010 as his swan song. But after hitting .276 and playing all three infield positions but first base, Vizquel had a change of heart and in an offseason of prime free agent signs by Chicago, he came first. The infielder has paid off the teams faith, hitting .348 through his first six games and spelling both young, faltering infielders Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham.

As long as my body is OK, performing and doing what I ask it to do, right now theres no reason I cant keep playing, Vizquel said. I am going to keep trying to play. I dont need to be on a table getting massages, or a Jacuzzi, or need a personal trainer with me on the road trip. I dont need any of that stuffI feel I can still do the same things Ive been doing for all these years.

Guillen, por supuesto, is a bit more blunt about Vizquels value.

He saved our ass last year, big time, and continues to do it, he said. I need to put him out there, because starters need a break and he shows up to perform well the way he does. Thats not an easy thing to do.

So, will Vizquel become the majors first 50-year-old utility man?

Vizquel smiled. Who knows?

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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Todd Frazier wasn’t pleased with a call Saturday afternoon that led to the first ejection of his career.

It’s not that the White Sox third baseman is arguing about whether or not he deserved to get thrown out in the seventh inning of a 10-2 loss to the Oakland A’s. Frazier is more miffed by first-base umpire Sam Holbrook’s initial ruling --- that his throw pulled Jose Abreu off the bag --- and the determination by replay officials that the call was correct.

Frazier was ejected shortly after word arrived that the call stands, which means officials in New York didn’t believe they have enough evidence to overturn the original ruling. That fact bothered Frazier, who was charged with an error and began to speak his mind. White Sox manager Rick Renteria was ejected shortly thereafter for the third straight home game.

“It’s just frustrating with the technology we have today,” Frazier said. “It’s just crazy. It boggles your mind. It really does. You know -- I’m the one. I’m vocal. I’m emotional. But when it’s wrong, 100 percent wrong. I saw it on the MLB Network. I saw it in our cameras and our computers. I just don’t understand how we can see it and they can’t see it in New York. It’s just, it’s frustrating as all hell to be honest with you. It turned into a big inning. We were down a lot, don’t get me wrong. But still, Jake (Petricka) is pitching his heart out and next thing you know he gives up an unearned run and two more runs. So it’s really not that hard. Honest. It’s not that hard.”

Renteria raced onto the field in an attempt to save Frazier from a quick ejection, but didn’t have enough time. It was the third home game in a row in which a White Sox player was ejected for the first time in their career. Tim Anderson got the boot on Friday night after he argued with plate umpire Jim Wolf. And Avisail Garcia got tossed from the June 15 series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.

Renteria said taking into context who his players are and their track record made him want to further defend their actions.

“I don't ever go into a situation arguing with someone to get thrown out,” Renteria said. “I don't. I think what happens is, like anybody emotionally, when you start talking and expressing yourself, you have a tendency to get heated. You don't plan on doing that. I certainly don't go out there planning on having that happen. I think what happens, and I think it's just human nature, you start thinking about the whole situation, you're losing a player. You're losing a guy that's supposed to be in there for the next two, three innings to help you maybe continue to chip away. Our team has been fighting every day, since day one of spring training. I don’t care what our record is, I don't care what the score is, we fight. And when you take one of those pieces out of the lineup, you get pissed.”

Even though he had a chance to cool off, Frazier still felt the same after the contest. He stuck his head into the team’s video room after the game to check out the play. Teams have a variety of angles from which they can determine whether or not to challenge a call. They also have the option of taking a freeze frame and magnifying the picture, which left no doubt in Frazier’s mind that the call was incorrect.

“Like I said just frustrating,” Frazier said. “It’s just not that hard. And with all the technology like I said, I don’t mean to repeat ourselves, but with all the technology and 8 different angles it’s just one of those things where I just can’t let that go. It turned into a huge inning. You never know. We were down 6 we coulda came back. You gotta be 100 percent. You gotta be 100 percent right on that and I really don’t think he was.”