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01/17/09 12:21 AM EST
Rangers looking to land Vizquel
Gold Glove-winning veteran would provide another option at shortstop
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
The Rangers' infield situation has taken an interesting twist, as the team is trying to sign free-agent shortstop Omar Vizquel for what will likely be a utility role. Major League sources said on Friday night that there is a good chance of getting something done by early next week. The situation changed dramatically this week, when shortstop Michael Young agreed to switch to third base to make room for 20-year-old Elvis Andrus. That is still the plan, and Andrus is expected to be the Opening Day shortstop. But signing Vizquel works for the Rangers on two levels. Mainly, he gives Texas a utility infielder who can play shortstop. That would allow the Rangers to give Andrus some games off when an especially tough opposing pitcher is on the mound and keep him from being overmatched offensively. But it also gives the Rangers another option if Andrus is deemed not ready in Spring Training. The Rangers don't expect that, but signing Vizquel would allow Young to focus on third base without having to worry about being switched back to shortstop. General manager Jon Daniels declined comment but said earlier this week that Andrus still has to win a job in Spring Training. He added that Andrus will be giving the opportunity, but it's up to him to take advantage of it. Vizquel also gives Andrus another mentor as he tries to make the leap from Double-A to being a regular at the Major League level. Both are from Venezuela, where Vizquel is a national hero, and their hometowns are 36 miles apart. Vizquel, 42, is an 11-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop and potential Hall of Famer who has played with the Mariners, Indians and Giants. His best years were with the Indians, from 1994 to 2004, though he won two Gold Gloves with the Giants in 2005 and 2006. But he was limited to 90 games in 2008 after undergoing surgery on his left knee and missing the first six weeks of the season. He ended up hitting just .222, his lowest average since 1989, when he was a rookie with the Mariners in 1989. Vizquel has played 2,654 games at shortstop, the most in Major League history, and his .984 fielding percentage is the best ever for shortstops with at least 650 games played. He is first all-time in double plays and third in assists.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.