Vizquel to begin push toward 2009

Vizquel to begin push toward 2009

SAN FRANCISCO -- Omar Vizquel is entering this season with next season on his mind.

The 41-year-old shortstop, whom the Giants will activate from the disabled list before Saturday's contest vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, suggested that he'll be spurred this year by his desire to return in 2009.

"I want to continue playing after this year," Vizquel said. "If I push myself and have a good offensive year, I think I'm going to keep playing."

Vizquel, who has been sidelined since early in Spring Training by left knee surgery and a bone bruise, is on the brink of some impressive statistical milestones. He needs to play 14 more games at shortstop to pass Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio to establish the all-time record for that position with 2,584, and he has 2,598 career hits, giving him a remote chance at 3,000.

But he insisted that he's motivated by sustaining excellence, not amassing numbers.

"If I have a poor offensive year, I would have to think twice about coming back," he said. "I'm not going to play because I want to play more games than another guy or get more hits. I'm going to play because I feel good about myself."

Vizquel acknowledged disappointment over being sidelined long enough to eliminate his chances of appearing in 140 games, which would have guaranteed him a $5.2 million contract for 2009 with the Giants. Instead, he'll probably have to settle for a $300,000 buyout.

"I have no control over that anymore," Vizquel said. "All I have to do is play well and see what happens."

Vizquel sounded mostly satisfied that he can perform capably and pain-free after playing five games in his Minor League injury rehabilitation stint, the first two with Triple-A Fresno and the final three with Class A San Jose.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy agreed. "I expect to see the same player that we know," Bochy said of the 11-time Gold Glove winner.

Vizquel did express mild concern about his stamina, ability to hit Major League pitching and the brace on his knee that could hamper his mobility. But he's more hungry than fearful, having been reminded of the splendor of Major League baseball by participating in extended Spring Training and his rehab stint.

Those experiences, Vizquel said, "made me think of my beginnings and how tough it is to [earn] a spot in the Major Leagues. I don't take anything for granted right now."

To clear roster room for Vizquel, the Giants optioned shortstop Brian Bocock to Triple-A Fresno. Bocock often played excellent defense while starting 26 games, but he batted .143 with no home runs and two RBIs.

"That's a lot to ask of a kid coming up from where he [played last year] in [Class] A ball and try to hit Major League pitching," Bochy said of Bocock. "He kept working and didn't let it affect his defense. He needs to go down, play every day and find his game offensively."

It had been speculated that Vizquel's activation could be accompanied by second baseman Ray Durham's banishment to the 15-day disabled list. Bochy said before Friday's game that Durham, who hasn't started since last Friday and hasn't played since Sunday, underwent an MRI that revealed a pull in his right hamstring. But after the game, Bochy indicated that Durham's condition had improved, noting that he could have pinch-hit if necessary.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.