Vizquel impressed by young Angels
Veteran shortstop thinks Aybar, Izturis have promise
ARLINGTON -- Few living ballplayers understand the nuances of shortstop play the way Omar Vizquel, one of the greatest ever to play the position, does at age 42, with 21 years of Major League experience.
Vizquel, a potential Hall of Famer who has embraced the role of teacher/backup for the Rangers this season, clearly has hastened the emergence of young Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Ian Kinsler at second base.
When he isn't focused on Andrus' development, Vizquel zeroes in on other shortstops, including the duo that handles the job for the Angels, the team the Rangers have been chasing most of the season in the American League West.
In Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis, Vizquel feels manager Mike Scioscia is twice blessed at one of the most important positions on the field.
"Both those guys, Aybar and Izturis, are very good players having very good years," Vizquel said. "I've known Izturis from way back; he was with Cleveland as a young guy when I was there. I haven't seen as much of Aybar, but he has a lot of talent.
"They're both still young, and you can see they're getting smarter. They play with confidence, which is very important. Izturis, I would say, is more like me in the way he plays than Aybar. I remember talking to [Izturis] when we were in Cleveland, and I could see he really wanted to learn."
With the Indians, a club absolutely stacked in talent in the '90s, Vizquel played alongside Roberto Alomar in arguably the most athletically gifted double-play combination in the game's history.
Izturis, who has primarily played second base this season with Aybar making his 126th start at short on Sunday, absorbed everything he could from both Vizquel and Alomar.
"I watched them and then had videos and would watch them all the time on [flights], wanting to see what they did and how they reacted in different situations," Izturis. "It was great to have that opportunity."
At times this season, Aybar and Izturis have stirred memories of Vizquel and Alomar with their range, quickness and ability to blend their skills so seamlessly. Howard Kendrick also has played at a high level at second base, paired with either Aybar or Izturis at shortstop.
"The Angels have a lot of good young players," Vizquel said, "and they signed two great players as free agents: Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter. Those two guys have really carried their team at times this season.
"They have a lot of guys who have done a great job -- [Chone] Figgins, Aybar, Izturis, [Kendry] Morales. Juan Rivera is having a great year. Almost everybody in their lineup hits .300. I wouldn't like to be a pitcher facing them."
The Rangers have played their best baseball against the Angels, going 10-4 heading into Sunday's series finale against a club that used to torment them.
"This team has the tools to play well against them," Vizquel said. "We've played great against the Angels, but then we get swept by Oakland. We have to learn to be consistent against everybody."
Nobody is perfect, but Vizquel, in his part-time role, has been close.
Batting .268 overall in 56 games and .485 against lefties, the magic man is errorless in 25 games at shortstop, 15 games at second and 16 at third, handling 195 chances flawlessly.
No wonder fellow Venezuelan Izturis, who has committed only four errors in 83 starts at second and shortstop, grew up wanting to be like Omar.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.