SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Omar Vizquel finally made it to Texas Rangers spring training Friday and settled into his locker next to an infielder half his age who has already been anointed the starting shortstop.
Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star shortstop going into his 21st major league season, signed a minor league deal with the Rangers knowing their plan. They want him to be a utility infielder and mentor to 20-year-old Elvis Andrus, also from Venezuela.
Still, Vizquel arrived in camp with the same expectations as he has the past two decades.
"You don't come with the mind that says, 'I'm going to be a utility player or I'm going to be playing second,'" Vizquel said. "You prepare yourself to be an everyday player, like I've always been. I'm prepared for the challenge if anything happens. Obviously, they want to give (Andrus) the chance. … It's part of my job to guide him."
Vizquel, who missed the first full squad workout Thursday because he got mixed up about the reporting date, hadn't met Andrus before Friday. The two sat together for a long time at their lockers.
"I didn't even know Andrus is spelled like that. When I saw him, I said, 'Oh, this is Elvis Andrus,'" Vizquel said. "We've been talking about different things, the Venezuelan League, the kind of glove he uses, little things like that. I'm sure by the time spring training is done we're going to be clicking pretty good."
The Rangers were so confident that Andrus would be ready despite having never played above Double-A that they moved five-time All-Star shortstop Michael Young, last year's AL Gold Glove winner, to third base.
Andrus wasn't even a year old when Vizquel, who turns 42 next month, made his major league debut April 3, 1989.
Vizquel's 2,654 games at shortstop are a major league record. Only Ozzie Smith has won more Gold Gloves at shortstop (13), but Vizquel is the only shortstop to win the award multiple times in both the American and National Leagues.
He expects that Andrus will be picking his brain a lot.
"I don't mind," Vizquel said. "I always like to talk to younger players about different things on the field."
After missing the start of last season because of left knee surgery, Vizquel was limited to 92 games, his fewest since playing 64 in 2003 for Cleveland, and hit .222 with 23 RBIs and 10 doubles. He is a .273 career hitter.
Andrus, who came from Atlanta in the July 2007 trade for Mark Teixeira, hit .295 with four home runs, 65 RBIs and 56 stolen bases in 118 games for Double-A Frisco last season. He had a .944 fielding average with 32 errors.
A starting shortstop throughout his career, Vizquel will work at second base, and maybe third, this spring.
"It's tough, winning as many Gold Glove as he's won, as many spring trainings as he's been to and went out as the everyday guy," manager Ron Washington said. "Omar is a class act. We tried to explain to him exactly what we wanted out of him. He agreed. We'll see how it goes."
Washington described Vizquel a valuable resource "for our young kid."
While no one questions Andrus' ability, he is unproven having never played a game in the majors.
"That's the other side of the coin," Vizquel said. "I'm not expecting to be there in an everyday role. Whatever they need me, I'll be there for them. Everybody knows already what I play. The challenge is try to be good at the other two positions."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.