Omar Vizquel agrees to minor-league deal with Blue Jays

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UPDATE: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick originally reported that Vizquel was getting a one-year deal, but it’s actually a minor-league deal with a spring training invite. He’s expected to battle Mike McCoy and Luis Valbuena for a utility infield job.

8:00 PM: While we haven’t heard much about Omar Vizquel this winter, we’re happy to pass along word that he’s coming back for at least one more season.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the veteran infielder has agreed to a one-year contract with the Blue Jays.

Vizquel, who turns 45 in April, batted .251/.287/.305 with seven doubles and eight RBI and a .592 OPS over 182 plate appearances with the White Sox in 2011. He made 20 starts at third base, 14 at second base and eight at shortstop last season, so he’ll likely function in a similar utility infield role with Toronto. Of course, he’s also a nice tutor to have around for their young infielders.

This will be Vizquel’s 24th big-league season. The 11-time Gold Glove Award winner has a .272 lifetime average to go along with 2,812 career hits and three All-Star appearances. 49-year-old Jamie Moyer and 45-year-old Tim Wakefield are the only older “active” players in the majors.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.