Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago White Sox [Print without images]

Friday, October 22, 2010
Vizquel has vintage year off bench

By Doug Padilla

We have now reached the end of our look back and look ahead to the White Sox roster. All that remains after today is a breakdown of the coaching staff and the front office.

BENCH

Look back at 2010: It was a mixed bag for White Sox reserves as Omar Vizquel delivered much more than what was expected and Mark Kotsay, no matter how hard he hit the ball, couldn’t give the team the production it needed. Brent Lillibridge was productive as a utility man earlier in the year but tailed off considerably toward the end of the season when at-bats were harder to come by. Ramon Castro proved to be a capable backup at catcher with eight home runs, which was one less than starter A.J. Pierzynski in 359 fewer at-bats. Castro also had 21 RBI in 115 at-bats, compared to Pierzynski’s 47 in 474 at-bats. Andruw Jones batted just .230 in a backup outfield role (in 278 at-bats), but he did hit 19 home runs with 48 RBI and scored 41 runs. Vizquel clearly made the biggest impact of this group and if any one person could be considered the focal point of the White Sox’s march back into contention in 2010 it would be him. Taking over for Mark Teahen at third base, Vizquel led the charge to an improved defensive effort from the entire team and it sparked the pitchers to improved results. At 43 Vizquel even delivered with his bat, posting a .276 batting average and a .341 on-base percentage over 108 games, a number that was considered unthinkable when the season began.

Look ahead to 2011: Vizquel is a free agent and his chances of returning next season aren’t so certain. He made $1.375 million in 2010 and could end up getting a raise off that price after what he did this past season, even at his advanced age. Not only that, but he could be looking for a two-year deal that would likely take him to the end of his career. Vizquel’s money will essentially be going to Teahen, who could end up being a super utility man (infield and outfield) if he doesn’t handily win the starting third base job during spring training. The problem is that he doesn’t play middle infield like Vizquel does. Teahen will be making $4.75 million in 2011. Lillibridge remains under team control, so he is cost effective and the White Sox won’t judge his entire season on his final week when he struck out nearly every time he came to the plate. Castro has set foot in the major leagues every year since 1999, but has received more than 200 at-bats just once, in 2005 when he got 209 with the Mets, so becoming a starter (if Pierzynski doesn’t return) seems to be a stretch at age 35. Jones isn’t expected to return and retirement rumors surround Kotsay.

Key stat: Vizquel’s unexpected busy schedule in 2010 did help im to reach a significant milestone. The Venezuelan-born player appeared in his 2,832nd career game on Sept. 6 at Detroit, giving him the most major league games played by a foreign-born player.

Quote: “Some people say that defense wins ballgames and I think we have been playing some pretty good defense. The pitchers are doing a pretty good job of keeping the ball down. I think that is the most important thing. When they make the right pitch, we can do our job. Things are happening, we’re turning double plays, we’re making the routine play and I think that is really important.” – Vizquel on July 20, when the White Sox had a 3 1/2-game lead in the division, their largest of the season.