Ex-Mariner Vizquel Adjusting To New Baseball Family

Shortstop Omar Vizquel said he was "shocked and surprised" when the Mariners traded him to Cleveland.

But that doesn't begin to describe the reaction of his wife, Nicole, a Seattle native.

"She cried for three days in a row," Vizquel said.

The couple, married two years ago, had purchased a house in Bellevue last year. Their pattern was to live in the Seattle area for seven months and in Vizquel's native Venezuela for five.

Nicole had to adjust to a different culture and the political instability of Venezuela. But she knew she could always return to her home during the season. "Now," Omar said, "we have just six games (in Seattle).

"We're not sure if we're going to buy a home in Cleveland or whether she'd fly back to Seattle every time we have a road trip."

Vizquel, like his wife, shares that sense of abandonment.

"I had been with the (Mariner) organization for 10 years," said Vizquel, who left Seattle Thursday night for Cleveland's training camp in Winter Haven, Fla.

"I really felt comfortable here, feeling like home," he said. "I was kind of disappointed they didn't talk to me before the trade."

Seattle got shortstop Felix Fermin and designated hitter Reggie Jefferson in the December trade. Mariner officials said they also made the deal for financial reasons. The club received $500,000 and saved approximately $1.3 million in salary.

"Maybe if they had made an offer, we could have seen what we could do," Vizquel said. "They did the same thing to Harold Reynolds and Dave Valle. They just let them go."

Vizquel recognizes how the middle-tier players, such as himself, and small-market teams such as Seattle are being squeezed in the current baseball market.

"When teams pay a top salary of $7 million to a player, the money has to stop somewhere," he said. "Somebody has to stop this. The Players Association and the owners have to get together to keep the smaller teams from losing players. No one wants to see a losing team like the Padres."

Vizquel said he was happy when he heard he was going to Cleveland, despite the fact that it is also a small-market team and has not challenged for a pennant since 1959.

"I like the Cleveland team," he said. "It's a team that's coming from behind, like Seattle, and is going to be a good team. I'm happy to be part of that rebuilding."

He'll also have a number of Latin friends, such as second baseman Carlos Baerga.

Vizquel is eager to play regularly on grass in Cleveland's new Gateway Stadium.

"I'd rather play on grass," he said. "That's the way the game should be. It's more exciting. I can concentrate better on grass."

He added that Mariner fans shouldn't discount the playing ability of Fermin, who made 11 more errors than Vizquel last season.

"He's a great shortstop," Vizquel said. "He played on a hard infield in Cleveland. He probably doesn't have the same range as I do, but he can do the job."