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Vizquel more ready for Cleveland return

Vizquel more ready for Cleveland return

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CLEVELAND -- Omar Vizquel is more prepared to face the Indians this time around.

Vizquel, who played with the Tribe from 1994-2004, made his first official trip back to Cleveland last season when he was with the Giants.

He said he was caught off guard when Indians fans treated him to rousing ovations every at-bat last June. But when he steps to the plate as the leadoff hitter for the Rangers, Tuesday at Progressive Field, he'll be ready.

"All the ovations pushed me and made me feel great," Vizquel said. "It was a real emotional time when I came here. Right now, just because I came here a year ago, I should be more relaxed."

Vizquel, who was 1-for-10 in that series and knocked in a key run with a suicide-squeeze bunt, said he was surprised with how popular he remains in Cleveland.

"I'm still walking down the street and am surprised how people call my name and recognize me," Vizquel said. "I've been gone for five years and people move on and have new teams and new players. I never expected it to be like that."

But it would be hard for Indians fans to forget Vizquel.

He was part of a core for the Tribe that helped turn around one of the worst teams in baseball in the early '90s. Vizquel came to the team in a trade in '93 and helped the Indians make trips to the World Series in '95 and '97.

"We were the team to beat," Vizquel said. "Those were some unforgettable times and are always going to be in those minds of those players that played here."

But Vizquel is a different player than he was then.

He's not playing as frequently at shortstop, where he won 11 Gold Gloves, the second-most for a shortstop. Vizquel said he had played just two innings at a position other than shortstop before this year. But in 42 games with the Rangers going into Tuesday, he had split his time between second and shortstop. He's even started two games at third base.

Vizquel's played a lot at second base recently with Ian Kinsler on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

"It's completely different than short," Vizquel said. "I feel out of place out there. But that's what I signed on for at the beginning of the season."

And he continues to make great plays no matter where the Rangers put him.

"He's a pro," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He does something to show you why he's been able to play as many games at shortstop as anyone in Major League history."

Despite being 42 years old, Vizquel came into Tuesday's game hitting .287 with a home run and 11 RBIs. He said he might not be ready to retire just yet.

"I can't really tell if this is going to be my last year or not," Vizquel said. "I'm healthy, both of my legs and arms are physically feeling pretty good and I just feel that I can play the best baseball and compete with all the guys here."

Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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