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Sanchez Is Holding A Place For Reyes Production, Not Press, Fuels Vidro
Sanchez Is Holding A Place For Reyes
By RAFAEL HERMOSO
February 24, 2003
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. It was a tradition with the Mets, like photo day or bobblehead day: at least once a season, usually before a small group of reporters or teammates, Rey Ordóñez would throw a tantrum in the clubhouse, taking a quick look at a lineup that again omitted his name and kicking a chair or letting out a curse.
The Mets will miss that show this year. With José Reyes, the heralded shortstop prospect, expected to arrive at Shea sometime during the season, the Mets have prepared. They traded Ordóñez to the Devil Rays. When discussing possible short-term replacements with second baseman Roberto Alomar, they mentioned Rey Sanchez. "That's the guy," Alomar said.
The Mets are confident they found the perfect fit for a position in transition. Sanchez chose them over starting jobs with four other teams because he saw a chance to win and an opportunity to extend his career.
"Twelve years in the big leagues: does that make a difference?" Sanchez said. "I know how the game is played. There's always somebody there. There's always that young player coming that teams are not sure that they're going to be ready. That's where guys like me come in, fill in and do my job, and maybe I get to stick around for another year. If not, maybe I do my job and win, get a ring and get out of here."
Tired of the skirmishes that broke out across their roster last season, the Mets made acquiring players with professional attitudes a priority. Among the many reasons to move Ordóñez was the realization that he would not handle losing the starting job well.
After trading Ordóñez, the Mets said that Reyes would be their shortstop within the next year. Sanchez is comfortable with himself, and at this point in his career, he was not scared off.
"He has a good reputation," Mets General Manager Steve Phillips said. "After I signed him, I had other G.M.'s tell me what a good signing that was, that he was a guy that would do whatever it took to win."
Alomar and Sanchez have played together for years in Puerto Rico, and Alomar realized that Sanchez had the professionalism to handle the Mets' demands.
"Rey's not the kind of guy that will complain," Alomar said. "If Reyes goes out there and they want him to play shortstop, he will help him out."
Now with his eighth organization, the 35-year-old Sanchez brings steady defense, the versatility to play across the infield (he played second base for Boston last year and batted .286 in 357 at-bats) and an affordable salary ($1.3 million). Mets Manager Art Howe has raved about Sanchez's hands in the field, but the team's new shortstop should provide even more.
Sanchez, Alomar and Reyes huddled by the batting cage today. After their turns to hit, the three went into the infield, where Sanchez stood beside Reyes at shortstop. Alomar has told Reyes how important it is to listen to his teammates, and Sanchez helped Reyes with grounders and with conveying his style of approaching the ball.
"To be a good infielder, you have to have the rhythm with a ground ball," Sanchez said. "You see a pitcher going, you get down and prepare yourself for it, and when it comes, you see the ball and then you react."
Sanchez complimented Reyes on being a good listener. Reyes, who is still slowed by a quadriceps strain, said Sanchez had made himself approachable. "He wants to help," Reyes said.
There was no one to ease Sanchez's way to the major leagues. Rising with the Cubs, Sanchez was thrust into the starting job when a back injury sidelined Shawon Dunston in 1992.
"That's what I provide," Sanchez said. "I'm open. If you need help, I'm here. That's the same thing I told José: `I'm here to help, anything you need, because you are the guy they're expecting to come up and take over the job, so you better get yourself ready.' "
Sanchez marveled at Reyes's physique as a 19-year-old and rhetorically asked the 37-year-old Jay Bell in a nearby stall if he was as strong at that age. Sanchez said that Reyes, who has not played above Class AA, would soon be ready to play in the major leagues, but the Mets do not want to rush him. Until then, and even beyond, Sanchez will enjoy his stay.
"I hope the veteran player gets to win a ring," Sanchez said.
Production, Not Press, Fuels Vidro
By Josh Robbins | Sentinel Staff Writer
February 25, 2003
VIERA -- When it comes to hitting a baseball, Montreal Expos second baseman José Vidro means business, even if a coach is tossing a ball underhanded from 18 feet away.
Vidro participated in such a drill at the Expos' spring training complex at Space Coast Stadium the other day, methodically hitting the ball to almost the same place time after time after time.
To outsiders, it might not seem like much, but consistency, even in the simplest of practices, instills self-assurance.
"My approach to hitting starts with confidence," Vidro said.
After four full seasons in the majors, all with Montreal, Vidro has plenty to be confident about.
Vidro hit .315 last season, the fourth consecutive year he has hit at least .304; drove in 96 runs; and earned a spot on the National League all-star team for the second time.
Montreal hitting coach Tom McCraw considers Vidro "an absolute consummate pro hitter."
"He can flat-out hit," McCraw said. "He has a plan and an idea of what he wants to do all the time, and that's why he is a pro. That's what makes him what he is."
Vidro arguably is one of baseball's top all-around second basemen, in a class with Houston's Jeff Kent, Seattle's Bret Boone and the New York Mets' Roberto Alomar.
Just don't expect to see Vidro receive major endorsement deals or loads of media attention unless the Expos move to a market in the United States. Those who play in Montreal often do so in relative obscurity.
"I'm sure everyone feels like they have an underrated player, but this young man has proven that he deserves more attention and more ink because he has done it over the years," Expos Manager Frank Robinson said.
Vidro insists he could care less about his press clippings.
"I'm just here to play the game, make my family happy and make them proud," he said.
Still, playing for the Expos can be much more complicated because the franchise has been anything but stable in recent years. Starved for revenue, the Expos have parted with some of their most talented young players over the past decade to slash payroll. Players such as Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, Bartolo Colon, John Wetteland and Moises Alou either have been traded or allowed to sign elsewhere as free agents.
Early last year, owner Jeffrey Loria sold the team to Major League Baseball, and the Expos remain wards of the commissioner's office. Expos General Manager Omar Minaya operates under orders to keep the payroll low.
Does that mean Vidro and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, whose contract expires after the 2003 season, could be the next to go, especially if the Expos drop far out of the playoff race during the season?
Even the thought of the team moving from Montreal -- Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Portland, Ore., have been mentioned as potential sites for relocation -- upsets Vidro.
"To tell you the truth, I don't see myself playing for another uniform," he said. "I like it here. I like the organization. It's just unfortunate for us that our fans don't show to the games. It's a nice city. It's a beautiful city."
Vidro, 28, makes his off-season home in Puerto Rico, where he was born and raised. He will return there this season because the Expos will play 22 "home" games in San Juan, and that thought thrills him.
"It's tough not to think about it," Vidro said. "When I heard the news, I was like, 'This is a dream come true.' "
The prospect of playing at home undoubtedly helps spur him to hone his batting stroke this spring. Now that he is a bona-fide veteran, Vidro said he knows exactly what he needs to do to prepare for an upcoming season.
"This is the first time at spring training that I feel very, very comfortable," Vidro said.
For opposing pitchers, that means trouble because Vidro means business.