Jordany Valdespin is still the man, but now he’s the man in Central Islip. The former Met, perhaps best known for his “I’m the man right now” quote after a 2012 walk-off home run against Jonathan Papelbon in Queens, has found his way back to New York, this time as a Duck.
And it would be a hard task for anyone to be hotter at the plate.
Entering Saturday night’s game against the Sugar Land Skeeters, Valdespin, who played with the Mets in 2012 and 2013, was hitting .418 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 13 games (55 at-bats). His walk-off home run the previous Saturday night gave Francisco Rod riguez his first win since signing with the Ducks five days earlier.
To hear Valdespin tell it, there’s nothing too complicated about his approach in the first two weeks of the season.
“I see the ball and hit the ball,” said Valdespin, who is from the Dominican Republic. “It’s working hard in the cage, getting practice in like I’m in the game, and being focused.”
There’s little Valdespin can’t do right now. But this isn’t simply a case of a former major-leaguer beating up on inferior competition. It’s the product of an intense love and respect for the game that transcends any level.
“We were playing a spring training game against the Black Sox [an amateur team] on a Tuesday at 1 p.m. with maybe 20 fans in the crowd,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez recalled. “He bunted for a hit and legged out a triple.”
Baez, still in awe of the memory, continued: “That just tells you a lot about a player. He just wants to play the game. Doesn’t matter where he’s playing, it could be the backyard or the big leagues, he’s still coming out with that attitude and competitiveness that you love to see. It was eye-opening, to say the least.”
Valdespin hit .219 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs in 160 games over two seasons with the Mets. His five pinch-hit home runs in 2012 broke the franchise single-season record.
Valdespin signed with the Marlins before the 2014 season and hit .206 with three home runs in 54 games over two seasons.
Valdespin has come to Long Island with the hope of returning to Queens someday. Or, more broadly, any major-league city. But Queens would be nice.
“It’s the city where my career started, New York City,” Valdespin said. “Long Island is part of my life. My family is living in New York City, my career started in New York City. I have some friends here. It’s a nice city, so I’m going to try and enjoy every moment . . . I want to go back to The Show and try to finish what I started. I want to try to get better every day.”
Meet the vets
The Ducks’ group of former major-leaguers continues to grow, bringing the current roster total to 13. They signed veteran utilityman Emilio Bonifacio and lefthanded pitcher Daniel Schlereth on Tuesday.
Bonifacio played parts of 11 seasons with the Marlins, Braves, Diamondbacks, Royals, Cubs, Nationals, White Sox and Blue Jays, compiling a .256 average with 13 home runs in 831 games.
Bonifacio’s best season was 2011, when he hit .296 with five home runs and 36 RBIs in 152 games with the Marlins.
He wasted no time making his mark with the Ducks. Entering Saturday night, he was hitting .563 with two RBIs in 16 at-bats over four games.
Schlereth pitched parts of four years with the Diamondbacks and Tigers. Entering Saturday night, he had pitched two scoreless innings, walked two and struck out two.
After earning his first win in his debut appearance with the Ducks last Saturday, former MLB All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez earned his first two Duck saves this week. He pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one on both Wednesday and Thursday in the Ducks’ wins over the New Britain Bees. Rodriguez is yet to allow a run in three appearances, entering Saturday night.