Whether it be personally — he defected from his native Cuba in 2003 — or professionally, the 33-year-old New York Yankees left-handed pitcher has been through much worse than that.
Valdes was at the lowest of lows in 2006, pitching in the independent Can-Am League with the Nashua Pride and New Jersey Jackals following his release from the Cubs organization. He signed with the Mets after that and was released, then brought back last year. At 32 years old, he made his Major League debut and pitched fairly well at times, posting a 4.91 ERA in 38 appearances out of the Mets bullpen.
He pitched in seven games for the St. Louis Cardinals this season before they designated him for assignment, and he was subsequently claimed by the Yankees, who assigned him to Triple-A Scranton. He strung together three scoreless outings, then was demoted to Double-A Trenton, where he spent seven days and made two appearances.
Add all that together and…yeah, seven days in Mercer County wasn’t so bad.
“I never put my head down,” said Valdes through interpreter Dellin Betances.
“I’ve had difficult times before, and I just tried to go out there and do the same thing. I really never let myself get down, I just tried to keep working hard. I’m happy to be here now.”
“Here” is the big leagues, where Valdes was sent once rosters expanded on September 1st. And following his second consecutive strong outing, Valdes earned praise from manager Joe Girardi, who noted that Valdes’ delivery provides deception.
“I thought Valdes did a pretty good job,” Girardi said. “The last two times that we’ve used him, he’s done a pretty good job for us. He’s got a little funk to him. There’s something about his windup that looks like the ball kind of jumps at you, and we’ll use him more.”
“Every opportunity I get is definitely going to be important from now,” Valdes said.
“But I haven’t really put too much thought into it. I’m really not expecting it, but I just want to keep working hard. Whenever they use me, I want to make the best out of it. If I do get put on, I feel like I’m going to try to take advantage as much as I can of every situation…I know there’s a chance, but it’s not in my hands. But if I get that chance, I’ll be excited for it.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com