Monday, Sept. 6, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
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.