05/04/08 4:09 PM ET
Vazquez mentoring young Duran
Pair filling in nicely for injured third baseman Blalock
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
The Texas utilitymen represent two sides of the baseball spectrum -- Vazquez, 31, stands as the veteran, having played for five different teams over the last seven seasons, while the 23-year-old Duran is experiencing the big leagues for the first time. It's fitting, though, that their lockers are right next to each other, as both have been instrumental in guiding the Rangers to six victories in the last eight games.
Duran scored the winning run April 25 against Minnesota after pinch-running for Hank Blalock, who left the game with a torn hamstring and is now on the 15-day disabled list. Since then, Duran has shared third-base duties with Vazquez and started at second base Saturday when Ian Kinsler was a late scratch from the starting lineup.
"It shows that we've got people here who can play," Texas manager Ron Washington said of Vazquez and Duran's presence in the absence of key starters such as Blalock. "We're very happy to have them."
The right-handed Duran, who Washington said he "can call on him to do anything," has hit safely in three of his last four games, including a multihit game against Kansas City on Wednesday.
"I'm here to help out in whichever way I can," Duran said following Saturday's game, in which he went 1-for-4. "That's my job."
Duran's job has been made easier with the help of Vazquez, whom he proudly calls his mentor.
"He's a good player and a guy I look up to," the rookie said. "Being a utility player is mentally challenging, and he's really helped me with that and has been an influence in helping me mature as a player."
Vazquez is batting a respectable .275 and started his third consecutive game Saturday, going 1-for-3. As a player who started at all four infield positions last year for Texas, Vazquez said he knows the importance of his role as a utilityman.
"Getting on base and playing defense, that's how you win games," he said. "For me, I need to get on base for the big guys."
The left-handed hitter is also aware of his position as a mentor to the young man sitting at the locker beside him.
"It's hard when you're first brought up and you're starting out," Vazquez said. "I'm just always telling guys like Duran to keep working. Even when there may not seem like much to do, you need to go out there and work and work.
"He's in a tough situation, but he's been great so far."
Vazquez's actions, whether on the field across from Duran or inside the clubhouse right next to him, have not gone unnoticed by the skipper.
"He knows what he's capable of doing," Washington said of Vazquez. "That's what a good utilityman does."
Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.