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Veteran Vizquel is dazzling Jays

PLEASE, NOT THE BEAK: Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino mocks a karate kick toward the Pirate Parrot.

Associated Press

PLEASE, NOT THE BEAK: Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino mocks a karate kick toward the Pirate Parrot.

DUNEDIN — Omar Vizquel is barely six weeks shy of his 45th birthday and has spent 23 seasons in the majors, and he's still trying to prove he belongs.

Vizquel is a non-roster invitee to Blue Jays camp. With a stellar performance at third base and at the plate Monday in Toronto's 4-1 victory over the Orioles, he took steps toward winning a job as a utility infielder.

Vizquel made two dazzling plays at third base, a less familiar position for him than shortstop, where he has won 11 Gold Gloves, and had a two-run, two-out single.

The hit was barely a footnote after the game for Toronto manage John Farrell. Vizquel has played 132 career games at third base and 2,699 at shortstop.

"His internal clock is what allows him to make up for any deficiencies in arm strength," Farrell said, "how quickly he gets rid of the ball and his understanding and knowledge of the hitters and the speed of the hitters. Whether he gets them by a half-step or a quarter-step or two steps, they're an out."

Vizquel barehanded Scott Beerer's high chopper just off the third-base line and threw him out at first. Two innings later, Vizquel backhanded Jai Miller's bouncer a few steps onto the outfield grass and sailed a rainbow throw that beat Miller by two steps.

"The long throw was more impressive," Vizquel said. "It was (a backhanded catch) I don't do very often, and still make the long throw. People are questioning if I still have the ability to make a good throw to first base with power. The barehand play, I used to do that quite a few times."

FIRST STRING COMING: The Blue Jays are scheduled to bring several big-name players to St. Petersburg's Al Lang Field for today's 1:05 p.m. game against Team Canada, including Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind.

Phils: Dominant start

BRADENTON — Though it was just a spring training outing, Vance Worley pitched as if it were Game 7 of the World Series.

The right-hander struck out eight in four perfect innings to lead the Phillies past the Pirates 3-1. Pittsburgh did not hit a ball out of the infield against Worley, who struck out two in each inning, dominating with a mix of cutters, sinkers and curves.

"It's too early to strike out a bunch of guys," Worley said. "I'd rather get contact, because that helps you get deeper into games. (Monday), I happened to get a lot of swings and misses and some takes in there, too. If they're going to give them to me, I'll take them."

In his first spring outing, Worley gave up two runs and five hits in two innings against the Astros. He stewed for four days.

"I sat on my couch and thought about it, even though you're not supposed to think about it," Worley said. "I basically said, 'I know I'm better than that.' I wasn't going to let it happen again."

BACK AT FIRST: Jim Thome played first base for four innings, his first game action at first since 2007. The Phillies hope he can handle it well enough to fill in for Ryan Howard, who might not return until midseason.

The first ball hit to Thome, a grounder off the bat of INF Albert Cartwright in the fourth inning, scooted past him. He fielded another grounder cleanly later in the inning and wound up making five putouts.

"It felt good to be out there," Thome said. "It was just a lot of fun. It makes you really appreciate guys that win Gold Gloves and go out there, really good defensive players."

Yanks: Good news

TAMPA — Yankees RH reliever David Robertson, who suffered a bone bruise in his right foot when he fell down some stairs last week, ditched his walking boot and played catch without pain, the Journal News reported.

Though it's unknown when he'll be cleared to resume throwing off a mound, he told the newspaper that he expects to be ready for the season opener against the Rays on April 6.

"As long as I don't have any setbacks, I don't see why I wouldn't be," he said.

Robertson posted a 1.08 ERA in 662/3 innings last season as New York's primary setup man.

>>LOCAL CAMPS

Blue Jays

Where: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Today: (ss) vs. Canada, 1:05, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg; at Twins, 1:05, Fort Myers

Info: bluejays.com/spring training; (727) 733-0429

Phillies

Where: Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Today: at Astros, 1:05, Kissimmee

Info: phillies.com/spring training; (727) 467-4457

Yankees

Where: Steinbrenner Field, corner of Dale Mabry and Martin Luther King, Tampa

Today: vs. Red Sox, 7:05, Tampa.

Info: yankees.com/spring training; (813) 879-2244

Veteran Vizquel is dazzling Jays 03/12/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 12, 2012 11:24pm]
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