There weren’t many highlights in the Baltimore Orioles Saturday evening game in Buffalo against the Blue Jays.
This journeyman pitcher has been all over the world playing baseball. He entered his first game for the Orioles in the fifth after the Blue Jays had some fun with Alex Cobb‘s first four innings.
After Cobb walked the first batter of the fifth and followed up with a single, Valdez entered the game and immediately took control. It almost felt like watching a veteran take over for a rookie – that’s how bad Cobb’s night was.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr.at the plate with two runners on, Valdez made the Jays DH look like a fool at the plate. Guerrero didn’t know what to do with the change ups, and he swung at several that were out of the zone striking out an 80 MPH outside pitch. Valdez got the next two outs allowing Orioles fans to exhale.
In the next two innings, Valdez never threw a pitch that topped 88 MPH. It was all about the movement, and only Cavan Biggio earned a hit. Randal Grichuk reached on a dropped third wild pitch, but the swinging third strike was recorded as a strikeout for Valdez.
Valdez has been working out at the alternative site with the rest of the reserve players. The Orioles signed him as a free agent back in January and he is expected to makes under $100,000 in 2020. Despite making his MLB debut in 2010, 2020 marks the beginning of his third season in the League. He’s spent the majority of his time in foreign leagues.
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In his 10 seasons in the Mexican, Caribbean, and Dominican Leagues, he’s earned a career ERA of 3.61 with a WHIP of 1.223. Because of his time overseas, there isn’t much out there about the finesse pitcher who has a relatively “slow” fastball.
But, in 2010, Fangraphs shared that Valdez had a wipe-out sinker with outstanding control. He didn’t get many strikeouts, but induced a plethora of ground balls. Ten years later, his pitches still have the same mid-to-high 80s velocity, and he still can make batters look foolish as they see the meatballs that come in and drop out of reach.
Consider other pitchers who rarely – if ever – reach speeds over 90 MPH. Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez both tend to stay under 90 MPH and have a range that reaches into the 70s. Yes, they have moments where batters tee off on them, but their stuff moves so much that most batters don’t know what to do with them. Watching Valdez felt like watching Greinke or Sanchez.
Hopefully, batters won’t figure him out, like they seem to have done with other Orioles pitchers. If they do, at least we had those three innings on Saturday night.