First Strike: White Sox bring Vizquel back

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First Strike: White Sox bring Vizquel back

Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010
Updated at 9:17 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Who saved the Chicago White Sox season in 2010? If you ask one very important judge, it was the oldest player on the team.

Omar has impressed me so much, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of 43-year-old Omar Vizquel after Chicago had stormed from 9 games down to take over the Central Division lead before the All-Star break. His defense, his leadership, hes had some key hitseverything started to turn around for us when he started playing regularly.

Vizquel was pressed into action after incumbent third sacker Mark Teahen broke his finger in May, but played so well Teahen was unable to regain the hot corner upon his return. Surely, Vizquel wont be depended on to play 108 games in 2011, a fact he seemed resigned to upon re-signing.

Im clear about my situation, Vizquel said during a conference call on Monday. I know my job is going to be as a backup player. Whatever happens this year, I will take it in and enjoy it like its going to be my last year again.

Vizquel was acknowledging the fact that he had all but announced hed be embarking on his farewell tour or major league parks during 2010, but his surprising productionpotent offense and acceptable defense at three infield positionspersuaded him to play another year.

Guillen, who had a respectful--but at times testy--relationship with the player just three years his junior, went so far as to say Vizquel could play at least another couple of yearsthrough 2012if he chose.

Ozzies a different guy, Vizquel said in reference to the 180 degrees of temperament difference between the two Venezuelans. You dont know what to expect from him sometimes. But he just finds a way to get you going and press your buttons. Thats the way a manager has to be sometimes.

The manager made a number of joking comments in reference to protecting Vizquel given his advanced age but overall was in awe of his veteran infielder.

There wasnt any extra wear and tear, Vizquel said of his condition after 108 games in 2010. My body responded awesome. The challenge was great, and the way I prepared myself in the offseason, I was up to the challenge.

Vizquel hit .276 with 11 doubles, two home runs and 30 RBI and logged an on-base percentage of .341, better than his career average. He made 62 starts at third base, 19 at second, eight at shortstop and one as designated hitter.

He achieved a major career milestone at the Detroit Tigers in September, playing his 2,832nd game, the most of any player born outside of the United States. The all-time record stood at 2,850 as of the end of the 2010 season.

Vizquel is generally considered the greatest fielding shortstop ever, a fact thats supported by the archaic but prevalent fielding percentage statistic (.985 all-time). As such, the native of Caracas, Venezuela won 11 Gold Gloves as a shortstop (1993-2001, 2005-06).

Vizquel originally signed with the White Sox as a free agent on November 23, 2009. He had been targeted by GM Ken Williams as early as 2004, when the veteran was close to inking a deal with the White Sox before the San Francisco Giants swooped in, offering a third year to their offer.

The veteran has made no secret of his desire to one day manage in the majors, and soon.

Im really preparing myself to manage, Vizquel said. I would like to manage as soon as possible. I have the experience and the knowledgeThe experience from my playing days will translate into good enthusiasm and a positive way to manage.

Vizquel was re-signed within 24 hours of the end of the World Series. This year marks the debut of a shorter window that teams have to re-sign their own free agents, reduced from 15 days to five. That gives Chicago four more days to re-up Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, J.J. Putz, Mark Kotsay, Freddy Garcia, Manny Ramirez or Andruw Jones without outside competition.

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

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."