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Quirky Jordany Valdespin getting closer to a roster spot

Mets' Jordany Valdespin runs past second base after

Mets' Jordany Valdespin runs past second base after hitting a solo home run during an intra-squad game in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jordany Valdespin began his morning Monday by tweeting a song lyric about how nobody can stop him. Justin Verlander sure tried. The Dominican-born Valdespin's grammar was a little off -- "no body can't stop me," he tweeted -- but self-assuredness is one of the reasons he's an intriguing option for the Mets.

The other is his bat and the third is his versatility. Valdespin led off and started at second base against the Tigers Monday and homered off Verlander on the third pitch of the game in the Mets' 11-0 victory at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Valdespin went 1-for-2 and is batting .370 this spring with a team-leading three home runs and six RBIs. He also botched two consecutive plays at second base, one scored an error. And he left the game in the fifth inning after being hit in the groin on Verlander's last pitch while squaring to bunt.

Valdespin, apparently not wearing a cup, went down in pain and stayed there for a while. He got up and walked all the way to first base, but was removed for a pinch runner.

Later, he joked about the uncomfortable nature of where he was hit and said, "Everything is good, working good, normally, everything is great."

Verlander said he wasn't throwing at Valdespin, who has a history of firing up opponents in his short time in the majors.

"We're going to settle some of that down," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's been told -- a lot -- about how to handle himself on the major-league field."

Valdespin is a natural second baseman and played there Monday because Daniel Murphy has a strained muscle in his right side. The Mets hope Murphy will be ready for Opening Day.

Valdespin is more likely to get his at-bats as an outfielder. Last season, he played 39 games in the outfield for the Mets. He played 16 games at second and four at short. But his best position is in the batter's box.

In the third inning Monday, Valdespin booted a grounder up the middle off the bat of Torii Hunter for a two-out error. That compounded a mistake he made when the previous batter, Austin Jackson, hit a grounder his way with a runner on first. Valdespin hesitated when runner Danny Worth stopped. He threw to first for the out instead of simply flipping to second or moving toward Worth and tagging him. Jonathon Niese worked out of the inning, however, by getting Avisail Garcia to bounce out to third.

Valdespin, 25, got mixed results in his big-league debut in 2012. An uncertain defensive player at every position he has been stationed, Valdespin showed a knack for clutch hits but a lack of plate discipline.

In 191 at-bats, he hit .241 with an on-base percentage of .286 and a slugging percentage of .424. He had nine doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts.

Five of Valdespin's home runs came as a pinch hitter, so he has value off the bench. Valdespin could be forcing his way onto the roster over Kirk Nieuwenhuis (1-for-18 this spring and out with a bruised knee) or Mike Baxter, who went 1-for-3 Monday and is 3-for-23 (.130) in spring training.

"We're going to try [Valdespin] in the outfield a little bit," Collins said. "Try to get him more comfortable out there in case that's where we have to put him."

Said Valdespin: "I'm not making the decision. The only thing I can do is play hard every day like I'm doing right now. We'll see what happens April 1."


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