First Strike: White Sox bring Vizquel back

303049.jpg

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.

Preview: Jose Quintana, White Sox look to win sixth straight game on CSN

Preview: Jose Quintana, White Sox look to win sixth straight game on CSN

The White Sox take on the Kansas City Royals on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (13-11, 3.21 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (8-19, 4.02 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Todd Frazier, Miguel Gonzalez propel White Sox past Rays

Todd Frazier, Miguel Gonzalez propel White Sox past Rays

Todd Frazier reached the 40-home run plateau on Wednesday night and now his eyes are trained on 100 RBIs.

Frazier’s seventh-inning solo home run not only extended his hitting streak to 12 games, it provided the game’s only offense in a 1-0 White Sox victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 12,976 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier became only the seventh player in franchise history to hit 40 homers in a season with his 394-foot drive off Rays pitcher Eddie Gamboa. The blast offered Miguel Gonzalez and David Robertson just enough support as they combined on a three-hit shutout. Robertson recorded his 37th save in 44 tries.

“It’s a big deal any time a guy rounds off that number,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s always a big deal for you. He’s been wanting to get there for a while. I don’t know if you guys know, but he’s been talking about it for a while. I know I’ve heard it a lot. He’s been aiming for that. He wants to get 40 and 100 and especially if it counts like it did tonight and gets a guy a win.”

Frazier entered the game hitting .305/.374/.568 with six homers and 14 RBIs in September, easily his best month of the season. His homer came on a cold, windy night in which offense was at a premium.

The game was delayed for 21 minutes by rain, which continued through the first inning. The rains came again in the bottom of the third inning and delayed the contest for another 76 minutes.

Tampa’s third pitcher of the night, Gamboa’s 76-mph knuckleball caught too much of the plate and Frazier planted it about eight rows beyond the left-field bullpen with two outs in the seventh.

“Not many people have hit 40 home runs in a year so it’s a good feat to have,” Frazier said.

“It’s a great feat to have. I had a bunch of people text me ‘It’s coming. Today is the day.’ It wasn’t that much pressure. It was just a matter of knowing that it’s there and I’m glad to get it over with and now it’s on to another goal of mine.”

Frazier has never driven in 100 runs in a season. His 98 RBIs this season are nine more than his previous career high of 89 that he set in 2015.

Gonzalez hadn’t pitched into the ninth inning since he threw a four-hit shutout on Sept. 3, 2014. To get there he had to stay loose and sharp throughout the second delay of the night. Gonzalez threw twice during the delay, a total of 25 pitches in the indoor cage, and stretched to stay loose.

But being his final start, Gonzalez wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. He returned after the delay and was remarkable. He had stretches where he retired eight in a row in the middle and nine straight into the ninth before he yielded a one-out single to Logan Forsythe.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

He allowed three hits, walked none and struck out five. Gonzalez threw strikes on 71 of 102 pitches.

Robertson took over and needed only one pitch to record the save as Kevin Kiermaier grounded into a game-ending double play.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been out there for the ninth inning,” Gonzalez said. “It took me two years to get there, but they were swinging early. I made some good pitches early on. Got some quick outs, that’s what you got me to the ninth inning.

“Staying loose was really the most important thing for it.

“I was mentally prepared. Obviously you can’t get away with it. It was my last start. I was going out no matter what and didn’t give in and the results were there.”