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Vizquel Plans To Play Through 2009

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AP
Omar Vizquel would prefer to know where he will play next season, and announced upon his arrival at spring training that he hopes the San Francisco Giants will consider a contract extension.

Vizquel would like to set up an informal meeting this spring, though Giants general manager Brian Sabean isn't ready to commit to such discussions with the 11-time Gold Glove shortstop.

"We can just sit and talk," Vizquel said Wednesday before taking the field at Scottsdale Stadium. "If he can't accommodate that, it's fine. It's not an obligation. They would probably listen to what I have to say _ I hope so. It could be just an introduction."

Sabean certainly knows Vizquel's value, yet also has to think about the club's long-term future at the position and what Vizquel might command financially. Vizquel plans to play through the 2009 season and catch Venezuelan countryman and Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio in a few statistical categories for shortstops along the way.

"It's possible," Sabean said about having a meeting. "But how probable that is, I have no idea right now."

The Giants' top prospect at shortstop is Emmanuel Burris, a switch-hitter selected 33rd overall in last year's draft as compensation for losing lefty reliever Scott Eyre in free agency.

Vizquel, who will turn 40 in April, enters his 19th major league season still making the same leaping catches of line drives and artistic, athletic stops to turn double plays that have defined his career and made him one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. His 11 Gold Gloves are second all-time at his position to Ozzie Smith's 13.

Vizquel played in 153 games last season and batted .295 with four home runs, 10 triples, 22 doubles and 58 RBIs. His four errors were his fewest since committing three for Cleveland in 2000. And in the past two seasons, only third baseman Pedro Feliz has played in more games for the Giants.

The San Francisco front office might consider giving Vizquel a one-year deal for 2008 with an option for '09.

"It would be nice to be relaxed and not put pressure on yourself," Vizquel said about having a new contract completed before opening day. "I feel great. I've seen other guys my age and I feel pretty good about myself. It always comes up that 'He lost a step,' or 'He's not the same. His arm is not strong.' In my mind, I feel like I've proven every year that I still have a lot more to give.

"I don't think I've played like a guy my age."

Vizquel won his second consecutive NL Gold Glove last season _ the oldest shortstop to win it at 39 _ after earning the first of nine straight in 1993 in his final season with Seattle, then the others during the initial eight of his 11 seasons with the Indians. He owns three of the top 10 single-season fielding marks by a shortstop.

He hopes to move in on Aparicio this season, though it would take Vizquel playing 156 games in 2007 to tie Aparicio at 2,583 for most games played by a shortstop. Smith is second with 2,511.

"I know every time I go back to Venezuela, people always talk about Luis Aparicio's records and how great he was," Vizquel said. "For me to surpass that would be really, really good."

Aparicio also had 2,677 hits, second among shortstops behind Honus Wagner with 2,705. Vizquel begins the year with 2,472.

His teammates can picture Vizquel playing long enough to move his name up several lists. Third baseman Pedro Feliz and second baseman Ray Durham are thrilled they have almost the same infield together for another year, with Rich Aurilia the new man at first base.

"He could do it. He stays in great shape," Durham said of Vizquel. "Normally, guys who get up in age worry about their legs. He's kept his legs strong. He is one of the best at his position."