Twins 6, Indians 2
CLEVELAND (AP)—Omar Vizquel didn’t know how to say goodbye.
So as the fans in Jacobs Field bestowed him with another standing ovation Sunday, Vizquel removed his cap and patted his right hand over his heart.
“That means I love you all,” he said.
The feeling was mutual.
Vizquel got a warm send-off in possibly his final home game for Cleveland, and the Minnesota Twins reached 90 wins for the third straight season with a 6-2 victory over the Indians.
Vizquel, the Indians’ wildly popular shortstop, went 1-for-4 in the team’s home finale—perhaps his last game wearing Cleveland’s white jersey.
Unless he’s willing to accept a reduced role next season and work out a new contract with the Indians, Vizquel’s 11th season with Cleveland will be his last.
“I want to stay here,” he said before Sunday’s game. “But it’s not up to me.”
Carlos Silva (14-8) allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings, improving to 4-0 in his last eight starts as Minnesota won for just the second time in six games.
“People said we were not going to win 90 games or the division,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We didn’t pay attention to those people. We’re pretty proud of what we accomplished. We think it’s a pretty big deal.”
A three-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner, Vizquel is expected to become a free agent in November. He has a mutual $5 million option for next season that the Indians are not likely to pick up.
The 37-year-old Vizquel is willing to accept a one-year deal to remain—and retire—with the Indians.
“I think we can work it out,” said Vizquel, who will meet with general manager Mark Shapiro immediately after the season. “This is the first time I’ve ended a season not knowing where I am going to be for the next one.”
If Cleveland fans had their way, Vizquel wouldn’t be going anywhere.
Hundreds lined up before the game to shake hands with Vizquel, who joined his teammates at the turnstiles to welcome them as they arrived at the gates.
Some carried “Keep Omar” signs, and many stopped to hug Vizquel or tell him how much he meant to them.
“That was awesome, man,” Vizquel said. “It was so cool to see so many people that I haven’t seen for a while and people that I’ve known for years.”
Playing in his 747th game at Jacobs Field, Vizquel received a loud ovation each time he came up. He popped out in his first two at-bats, and got kidded about it by teammate Casey Blake.
“I said, ‘O, these people didn’t come here to see you do that,”’ Blake said.
Vizquel led off the sixth with a single but was forced on a double play. Before stepping into the batter’s box in the eighth, Vizquel waved to the crowd and then took a deep breath before digging in.
“It was pretty hard,” he said. “That’s the most emotional I’ve been. It was hard to go in there and swing the bat.”
He grounded out to second, but not before he tried to beat the throw with a headfirst dive into first, the type of play that has typified his stellar career.
Vizquel took his spot in the field for the ninth, but manager Eric Wedge sent Jhonny Peralta in to replace him—a moving gesture that caught Vizquel off guard.
“I didn’t know they were going to do that. I wonder if that’s a sign I’m not coming back,” he said with a laugh. “I’d better ask Wedge what he was doing.”
When he reached the dugout, Vizquel stopped to acknowledge the fans and the Twins, who were applauding Cleveland’s No. 13 from across the field.
“He has always been a hero and always will be a hero to everybody in Venezuela,” said Minnesota pitcher Johan Santana. “He was my favorite player growing up and probably will be forever.”
Vizquel’s young teammates, too, were moved by the possibility that his career in Cleveland could soon be over.
“I hope one day I can have half the success that he has had,” said rookie outfielder Grady Sizemore, who had three hits and Cleveland’s two RBIs.
Gardenhire is the seventh manager to reach the 90-win plateau in his first three seasons and first since Davey Johnson did it with the New York Mets (1984-86). … Vizquel has not made an error in his last 52 games. … The Indians went 44-37 at home, their first winning season at the Jake since 2001. … Twins CF Torii Hunter didn’t start for the third straight game as part of Gardenhire’s plan to get his players rested for the playoffs.