Sox Drawer: The Curious Case of Omar Vizquel

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Sox Drawer: The Curious Case of Omar Vizquel

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
Posted 7:44 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - In life, there is something called an aging process. Its a pretty simple concept that is shared by every single human being walking the planet.

Well, except for one person: Omar Vizquel.

The 43-year-old infielder, who turns 44 in April, is here at Camelback Ranch not just defying the odds, but quite possibly modern science as we know it.

Im getting older and older, and I question myself, 'How long is it going to be and when will it be the time? Vizquel said in front of his locker, a wide, childish smile beeming from his face. So far so good.

Vizquel has come so far, and been so good for 22 seasons, putting together a Hall of Fame worthy career that seems to have no end.

Some might say he drinks from the Fountain of Youth - I disagree. Upon closer examination, Im pretty sure he bathes in it.

You just have to admire how hes gone about it for all these years, said White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, whose first order of business during the off-season was signing Vizquel to a second one-year contract. Hell, I played against him. I havent played in 17 years!

How long has Vizquel been in the majors? Heres an indication:

The year he entered the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 1989, George Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan as President, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and Gordon Beckham turned three years old.

You talk about a guy who loves the game, Beckham said. Him being around just makes people better because of what he brings to the game, the energy he brings to the game. I mean hes 43, about to turn 44, and hes got more energy than anybody in here.

I like to have fun with Vizquels knack of staying so young, often comparing him to the main character in the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," about a man who magically aged backwards.

So I posed this question to Omar: Is everyone around you getting older, and youre somehow getting younger?

Inside Im not getting older. Inside, Im still the same kid that likes to dive for balls and play with dirt and be fooling around with the kids. Obviously biology tells me something different. Its like your conscience is telling you that you cant do the things you were doing 10 years ago.

But last year seemed to tell him otherwise. He batted .276 in 108 games, collecting the most runs, hits, doubles, RBIs and stolen bases since 2007. Plus, the 11-time Gold Glove winner made only three errors in the field while playing second base, third base and shortstop.

Omar takes great care of himself, and hes kind of an artist out there, Williams said. Hes the piano player whos never going to lose the touch of the keys.

Well put.

My hands are the one thing that has kept me in the game for a long time, Vizquel explained. As long as my legs are able to reach and jump and do the crazy stuff that the infielders do, I have a chance to make the team.

Something tells me he will.

But how much longer can he keep playing? When I asked him if he can go another three or four years, he joked, I dont even know about next week! At this point, hes taking it year-by-year, and is not looking too far ahead.

However, there is a certain milestone that is stored in the back of his mind and is possibly within reach. Vizquel is closing in on 3,000 career hits, a monumental number for a major league player, often a necessary key in gaining entrance to the Hall of Fame.

Youre about 200 hits away, right? a reporter asked.

201, Vizquel quickly answered with a laugh.

Will he get there?

Knowing Omar, it's only a matter of time.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

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Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

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Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."