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GIANTS Vizquel excited with new team



Published: Tue, February 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The former Cleveland infielderwill play on a roster stacked with veterans.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Omar Vizquel fielded groundballs with the same ease he's shown for years on his first day with the San Francisco Giants.

That's what has made him one of baseball's best defensive shortstops.

One thing did seem a little strange for Vizquel on Monday: Pulling on a new uniform for the first time in more than a decade.

"I cannot lie. It feels really weird just to have the black and the orange," said Vizquel, who spent the last 11 seasons with Cleveland. "I've been wearing the blue and red for about 11 years. When people say black makes you look skinnier, I think they're right."

The 37-year-old Vizquel signed a three-year, $12.25 million contract in November to give the Giants some stability at shortstop -- and a chance to get back to the playoffs after falling short in the final weekend last year.

Ready to go

He's ready to go, too. Vizquel arrived a day before position players were due in camp and two days before the team's first full-squad workout.

That is if the weather permits with rain in the forecast.

"The second baseman's got to be prepared [to get the ball]," manager Felipe Alou said with a smile Monday when asked about Vizquel.

"That's why Ray [Durham] is running so much right now getting in shape."

Vizquel turned down a two-year offer from the Chicago White Sox, in part because he wanted to play on the West Coast near his Seattle-area home.

He started his career in the Mariners organization in 1984, breaking into the big leagues five years later.

He will wear his regular No. 13 after third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo -- Vizquel's Venezuelan countryman -- agreed to switch his uniform to No. 12.

"I appreciate the gesture," Vizquel said.

Vizquel, a nine-time Gold Glove winner and switch-hitter, batted .291 with seven homers and 59 RBIs last season for the Indians. He also scored 82 runs, stole 19 bases and didn't make an error over his last 55 games.

Vizquel will provide a boost to the defense, and should improve production in the No. 2 spot in the order.

He's not thinking about another Gold Glove just yet.

"I think now that I just changed teams, my priority is to make a good impression at the beginning of the season with the Giants and try to establish myself as a good infielder," he said.

"And everything will take care of itself. I just need to do my job. I need to do the things that I used to do to make the team win."

Veterans

He's excited to be on roster stacked with veterans again after working with Cleveland's young players in recent years.

Barry Bonds is 40, right fielder Moises Alou is 38, and center fielder Marquis Grissom is 37. A couple of relievers are 35.

"The difference here is you see a lot of guys who have been around for a while," Vizquel said. "They don't really need to push themselves that hard. They don't worry when they go 0-for-4. They don't worry when they give up a couple of runs. They do what they have to do. That's the way veteran players approach spring training."

These days, Vizquel hardly picks up a baseball in the offseason, concentrating more on staying in shape. He certainly looked fit in his new colors.

"As a veteran guy you know the things you have to do to get ready," he said. "Everything just comes naturally after you get to spring training."




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