It’s long been said that pinch-hitting is one of the most difficult things to do in baseball. But Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin has mastered it through his first one-plus seasons in the big leagues.
Of Valdespin’s 10 career home runs, six have come as a pinch hitter.
So that begs the question: Is it conceivable to believe the more success Valdespin has as a pinch-hitter, the less often he may find himself penciled in the starting lineup – despite the Mets’ desperate need for offensive production from their outfield?
The answer is no.
Despite being a middle infielder by trade, Valdespin is no stranger when it comes to playing the outfield. Of the 34 games he started during his rookie campaign, 26 were as an outfielder – 15 in left field, six in center field and five in right field. This season, Valdespin has already started 10 games in the outfield –eight in center field, one in left field and one in center field.
In limited duty, Valdespin has built a legitimate case to be an everyday player. After he belted a walk-off grand slam on April 24 to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-3, the Mets lost a season-worst six games in a row. That streak ended on Wednesday, when Valdespin drilled a pinch-hit three-run bomb during the sixth inning off Miami Marlins right-handed reliever A.J. Ramos, putting the Mets ahead for good en route to a 7-6 victory over their divisional rival.
The challenge the Mets face, however, is toning down his antics, without stagnating his ability to produce the way he has as a pinch hitter.
There’s no denying that Valdespin can play. His five pinch-hit homers last year set a Mets single-season record, surpassing the previous mark shared by Mark Carreon (1989) and Danny Heep (1983). In all, he slugged eight home runs in 191 at-bats, proving his flair for the dramatic.
He also showed his flair in other ways. Valdespin, 25, has earned a reputation as being a showboat.
He has been seen by the media prancing around the clubhouse wearing a T-shirt with his own picture on it and a bright red hat with the lettering “JV1” – his initials and uniform number – speckled across the front, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s rubbed some of the veterans and coaching staff the wrong way.
That being said, if Valdespin was inserted into the lineup on a more consistent basis, he would provide the team with a much-needed jolt. The key for him is to take all that pent-up energy and channel it inward, rather than using it foolishly. After all, opposing pitchers don’t take kindly to young hitters who show them up in the batter’s box.
Then again, they also don’t take kindly to giving up the long ball, and Valdespin could bring that to the lineup as an everyday player.
Like him or not, based on what Valdespin has done when called upon, he’s earned the opportunity to see if he can be a solution to one of the Mets’ question marks in the outfield
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.