Thursday, April 22, 2004

Some time for reflection

On brink of 2,000th hit, Vizquel ponders career

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - Rarely does Omar Vizquel stay in one place for very long. But Cleveland's high-energy shortstop has paused long enough over the past few days to reflect on his career.

On the brink of 2,000 hits, the 37-year-old Vizquel has finally begun to appreciate all he has done.

"When I started out, there is no way I would have dreamed of 2,000," Vizquel said. "I was happy to get one hit. A lot of stuff happened to get so many.

"I look back and I think of all the players, all the games, all the at-bats. And how about everything else that happened over that time? It's just awesome to think about it."

With his next hit, Vizquel will become the 230th player in history to reach 2,000, a number that didn't mean much to the nine-time Gold Glove winner until recently.

Other milestones - his first hit, his first All-Star game - have been important, but this one has a little added significance for Vizquel.

"A few days ago, it dawned on me just what has to be done to get there. It is really amazing to think about. Two-thousand, that's hard to believe. It's just awesome."

As the last link to Cleveland's glory years at Jacobs Field, Vizquel has seen it all during his 11 seasons with the Indians, who knew they were getting a slick-fielding, switch-hitting shortstop in a trade with Seattle in December of 1993.

They couldn't have imagined Vizquel blossoming into a possible future Hall of Famer or arguably the Indians' most popular player over the past decade.

Cleveland has been special for Vizquel and vice versa, which is why he is hoping he can reach 2,000 in front of a Jacobs Field crowd.

After getting his 1,999th hit on a seventh-inning double on Monday night, Vizquel asked manager Eric Wedge to take him out of a 10-4 loss so he might be able to get 2,000 at a better time.

Some might look at Vizquel's request as selfish. He doesn't, and the Indians don't, either.

"It will be nice if I could get it in a close game," he said.

Vizquel's quest for 2,000 was pushed back another day when the Indians and Kansas City Royals were rained out on Wednesday night. The teams will complete their series finale this afternoon with C.C. Sabathia (1-0) facing Jeremy Affeldt (0-1).

Cleveland (5-10) hasn't started the season as it had hoped, but Vizquel, who during spring training said he thought the Indians could compete in the AL Central, remains confident.

"I still believe that," he said. "If we can learn how to play in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, we'll be fine. We have to be able to recognize that one pitch and one play that gets us in trouble."

Vizquel's next hit will make him just the 19th active player to reach 2,000, and it will be his 1,469th hit as a member of the Indians.

Vizquel isn't far away from putting up another nice, round number. He's just eight games shy of becoming the 15th shortstop in history to appear in 2,000 games at the position.

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