Cyclone Valdespin comes through for Mets
By John Torenli
Mets utility infielder and former Brooklyn Cyclone Jordany Valdespin was expected to be heading back to the minors over the weekend, a casualty of starting shortstop Ruben Tejada’s imminent activation from the disabled list and manager Terry Collins’ desire to see the 24-year-old Dominican receive regular playing time at Triple-A Buffalo.
Regardless of the demotion, however, Valdespin endeared himself to his big-league teammates and Mets fans throughout Brooklyn with one big swing Monday night, catapulting New York to a dramatic 5-2 victory in Philadelphia with his first career hit.
In an unlikely pinch-hitting role, the left-handed hitting Valdespin turned on a fastball from Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth inning, driving the horsehide over the right-field wall for a game-winning three-run homer.
A friendly Philadelphia fan even got the ball back to the rookie, providing Valdespin with a perfect Mother’s Day gift.
The blast, Valdespin’s first hit in seven career at-bats in the majors, provided the surprising new-look Mets with the third victory in their ongoing season-high five-game winning streak entering Friday night’s visit to Miami, to take on free-agent defector Jose Reyes and the Marlins.
Valdespin, who batted .279 with three doubles, a triple, a homer, four steals and 10 runs scored during his 18-game stint on Coney Island during the summer of 2009, got the rookie treatment after rounding the bases following his big hit.
After becoming the first Met to homer as a pinch-hitter for his first career hit since Mike Jacobs – a fellow Cyclones alum – in 2005, the 6-foot, 190-pound Valdespin got plenty of high fives, head slaps and hugs from his teammates.
Justin Turner gave the neophyte his first shaving-cream pie to the face following a post-game interview on the field, and the rest of the Mets made sure the game’s big hero received a special “shower” in the lockerroom.
‘They were celebrating with me, threw ice and beer all over me. It was exciting,” said Valdespin, who was with Triple-A Buffalo 24 hours earlier working on his game under the tutelage of former Cyclones manager Wally Backman.
Mets manager Terry Collins, the organization’s minor league coordinator before taking the helm at Citi Field in 2011, gushed about Valdespin’s talent and potential after the game, but also indicated later in the week that the rookie might be best served spending more time at Triple-A to hone his craft.
“He is an extremely talented young player,” Collins noted. “He’s just so athletic. I know that he’ll handle himself great. If he plays the way he’s been playing since he’s been here, and the way he’s handled himself, he’sgot a chance to be here for a while.
“It would be hard for him to [stay in the majors right now],” Collins added on MLB.com. “Not that he can’t. But I’m not sure we really have enough time to get him in there that much.”
Valdespin followed up his big night by going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in Wednesday’s come-from-behind 7-4 win in Philly, dropping his career average in “The Show” to .100 (1-for-10). He sat out the Mets’ 10-6 triumph in Philadelphia on Wednesday, and is unlikely to be in the lineup when the Amazins kick off their weekend set in South Beach Friday.
With a roster stocked with six former Cyclones, pending Valdespin’s re-assignment to Buffalo, the Mets have burst from the gate with an impressive 18-13 mark following a turbulent offseason that featured the signing of Reyes by the Marlins and a long-awaited conclusion to the Bernie Madoff mess.
Though we’re only five weeks into a six-month campaign, the youth-infused Mets are forming the foundation of what could become a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.
Homegrown talents like Valdespin – signed by former general manager Omar Minaya out of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R., at the age of 19 in 2007 – have helped New York remain only one-half game behind Washington and Atlanta in the tightly packed NL East.
The 35th of 36 Cyclones players who have made the jump from MCU Park to the Majors during the franchise’s 11-year history on Surf Avenue, the utility infielder has the stuff that should see him back for another spin with the Mets.
“He can hit,” Mets catcher Mike Nickeas said of Valdespin. “You saw him do a little bit of it [Monday night]. I’ve seen him do that, amongst other things.”
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