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By Scott Barancik, editor
Danny Valencia returned to the Major Leagues yesterday (5/19/2013), and he celebrated by hitting a double in his first at-bat as a Baltimore Oriole, a liner to the warning track in right-center field off Tampa Bay Rays ace Matt Moore (see video).
It was a sweet sound for the 28-year-old Miami native, a lifetime .316 hitter against southpaws whose once-promising career took a wrong turn in 2012 and left him mired in Triple-A with his second new team less than a year.
Valencia was the pride of Minnesota back in 2010, when he hit .311 with 7 HRs and 40 RBIs over 85 games and finished third in voting for A.L. Rookie of the Year. A year later he hit .246 with 15 HRs and a team-leading 72 RBIs. The Twins’ long search for a reliable third baseman seemed over.
But in 2012, Valencia struggled both at the plate and in the field, landing himself in Triple-A for several months. He didn’t fare much better after being acquired by the Boston Red Sox, for whom he hit just .143 in 10 games. The Sox traded him to the Baltimore Orioles during the offseason, for cash.
Valencia could have given up. After all, his career trajectory didn’t look good. He was due to open a season in the Minors for the first time since his rookie year, this time with the Norfolk Tides. But he fought back any shame or doubts and quickly caught fire. After 40 games in the International League (Triple-A) in 2013, he was hitting .306 and among league leaders with 11 HRs (1st/tie) — including seven in his last 10 games — 14 doubles (4th/tie), 35 RBIs (2nd), 29 runs (2nd), and a .600 slugging percentage (8th/tie). The O’s decided to give him another shot in the Majors.
Whether Orioles manager Buck Showalter will platoon Valencia against left-handed pitchers remains to be seen. But Valencia sounds optimistic. “The streak that I was on [in Norfolk] was probably one of the better streaks I’ve ever had in my career,” he told MLB.com. ”I felt like any time they gave me a mistake to hit, I hit it pretty hard. It was a good feeling, and hopefully it carries over.”
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