Opposites attract: Vizquel, Sale set marks in win

Opposites attract: Vizquel, Sale set marks in win

Monday, Sept. 6, 2010
7:40 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT Chris Sale was born on March 30, 1989. Four days later, Omar Vizquel made his major-league debut at shortstop for the Seattle Mariners.

Both players, now members of the Chicago White Sox, set distinctive marks in Mondays 10-inning, 5-4 win in Detroit over the Tigers.

Vizquel played in his 2,832nd game, breaking a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for most games played among players born outside of the United Statesthe rest of the top five are Tony Perez (2,777), Luis Aparicio (2,601) and Julio Franco (2,527).

Its hard to believe through all these years and talking about playing so many games, I look back on my career and it feels like I just started playing five years ago, Vizquel said. All of a sudden you find yourself with a lot of games on you, a lot of hits, a lot of records. Im feeling very proud because I never thought Id be in the big leagues for this long. And its been a very great road for me. Each year was a different challenge.

I take pride because you never know what could happen to you, an injury where you cant rebound and play again. It takes a lot of hours and experience to know your body to be in the place that I am today.

And to think that before the game, no one knew that Vizquelnot even the 43-year-old himselfwas on the verge of such a major milestone.

Well, thats not quite trueit was surprise baseball historian Miguel Cabrera (moonlighting as Detroits first baseman) who approached White Sox first-base coach Omer Munoz with the news. Munoz told Vizquel in the dugout before the game, whereupon Vizquel, surprised, put the record out of his mind for the rest of the game.

But the record that no Chicagoan knew of could have been meant to be broken on Monday. How else can it be explained that Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop who had started just five games there this season, got the call to spell starter Alexei Ramirez?

Theres not many shortstops that get to play that position at 43, Vizquel said. Im happy that Im still able to do that. Even though I have two knee surgeries, Im still able to come back out of that and keep myself in shape to play this year.

All the talk about the record postgame didnt mean that Vizquel still wasnt somewhat surprised by it.

Omer told me when I was sitting on the bench, Vizquel said. I didnt really have an idea and I said, Really, whos the leader? He said he thought Palmeiro was. I never thought Palmeiro played in that many games. People also think the same way about me, which is kind of weird.

Sale, just 21, has flown up the White Soxs depth chart to the extent that he is now spelling 2010 All-Star lefty fireballer Matt Thornton in the pen. In 12 major-league appearances, Sale has logged a 0.66 ERA and 1.39 strikeouts per inning.

Though brimming with confidence, Sale himself has been wowed by his rapid ascendance.

This is far beyond where I thought I was going to be right now, Sale said postgame, appearing fully dried from the traditional beer shower that accompanies a first major-league win. I figured I would get a few chances, up five, down five, stuff like that. Its been awesome. I thank them for how much trust they put and have in me. Its very gratifying.

Sale threw 2 23 innings, his longest professional outing.

I felt fine, Sale said. I didnt throw too much in his last outing, one inning vs. the Boston Red Sox last Saturday. I had a great rest. I felt good today. The first inning, I didnt feel 100 percent but as the game went on, I loosened up a little bit more. I felt like this is one of my better outings.

The southpaw also has earned the respect of the guy who is charged with catching his whip-smart fastball, wicked slider and plus-change.

Hes good, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. Considering he was in college three months ago, for him to be able to do what hes done is pretty darned amazing. You dont see too many guys that are able to do that, especially right out of college, come into the middle of a pennant race and go out and dominate big-league hitters the way he has. Hes got a chance to be pretty special. You can see why he was drafted as high as he was.

More than just his livewire arm, the veteran Pierzynski is impressed with how the wide-eyed rook has carried himselfsomething just as important for a young players long-term prospects.

Sale has been great, Pierzynski said. Hes done everything right since hes been here. Hes gone about everything the right way. So far, so good.

Sale is a very pleasant surprise, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I loved the way he was throwing. If we couldnt use him again tomorrow I thought why not use him another inning?

Sales guileless pitching has lit up the stat charts and his teammates eyes. And the rookie has done a good job of considering himself one of the very players he had so long admired.

They are all just people, Sale said. They come up and speak with me. They dont treat me like the rookie but like a regular person. Its a lot easier when you speak with them. Its just like a normal conversation. Its a lot easier when you arent thinking, Thats Buehrle, or Thats Manny.

Especially once the kids of today start whispering, Thats Sale.

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

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”