Phillies Notebook: Valdez has been valuable for Phillies

Valdez
Valdez
Posted: September 13, 2010

NEW YORK - The less Jimmy Rollins plays, the more Charlie Manuel appreciates utility man Wilson Valdez.

"Valdez might be our MVP," Manuel said.

Hyperbolic, sure, what with an 18-game winner in his rotation and an RBI-and-home run-machine hitting cleanup, but, without Valdez, Manuel would have found himself without a viable option at shortstop this season. Valdez has started 36 games at short so far this season.

Manuel's level of appreciation for Valdez only will increase over the next few days.

Rollins returned to Philadelphia before yesterday's game for an MRI on his right hamstring today. Rollins has not played since he left Wednesday's game in Philadelphia with "tightness," according to the team.

The exam will seek to determine the source of that tightness.

"They want to make sure it's not torn," Manuel said.

Asked yesterday if Rollins was available to pinch-hit, Charlie Manuel winced and replied, "Ahhh . . . well, not righthanded, that's for sure."

That's because, said Manuel, Rollins' back leg batting righthanded is his right leg. The Marlins will start lefty Andrew Miller tonight, so Rollins, a switch-hitter, would hit against him righthanded.

While going through his daily rehab regimen, Rollins yesterday briefly acknowledged that he was not nearly fully fit to play.

It might be more realistic to expect Rollins back when the Nationals visit Friday.

Rollins is hitting .242, but had recently showed signs of emerging from a 6-for-38, nine-game slump that cost him his leadoff spot.

This is the third injury episode for Rollins, who twice missed time early in the season with a right calf strain.

Yesterday against the Mets, Valdez, a nonroster invitee who began the season in Triple A, doubled and singled and raised his average to .244. He showed off his wicked arm twice in this series; first, Saturday, when he called third baseman Placido Polanco off a high chopper; and yesterday, when he completed a doubleplay, sending a pea to first baseman Ryan Howard after pitcher Roy Oswalt lobbed a slow throw to second base for the first out.

"It's got some hair on it. It's coming in with some thunder on it," Howard said. "You just hope it's right there."

Valdez, 32, has had plenty of opportunity to show off his arm, given the injuries to Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley. He started 34 games at second base and has three starts at third. Manuel also said he is not afraid to use the knife-thin (5-11, 170 pounds) veteran in the outfield.

Now with his sixth major league team, Valdez never had more than 44 starts in a season, and that was back in 2005, as a shortstop with the Mariners and Padres.

His portfolio has expanded, as has his playing time.

"He's worked his way right into that utility role," Manuel said. "He has been very important to us. Big time."

Three's company

Roy Oswalt has been a part of a three-ace rotation before, when he played with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite in Houston. In 2005, all three recorded ERAs under 2.95 and each pitched at least 211 innings. Oswalt recalled the chemistry among them and the leadership Clemens provided:

"A great guy in the clubhouse to have. He pushes guys on the team. Even the hitters. He'll come in and get loud and push guys."

Oswalt noted that, thanks to a specially negotiated contract, Clemens wasn't always in the clubhouse, unlike, say Roy Halladay, whose voice is seldom heard but whose intensity, Oswalt said, is no less palpable: "When Halladay gives up one hit he thinks it's the end of the world." *

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