Pinch-hitting is one of the more difficult things to do in the sport. After sitting for up to two hours, you are given little time to get loose and thrust into position of trying to hit a 90-mph., fastball or nasty fall-off-the-table breaking stuff.
Few do it well, but the Mets’ Jordany Valdespin has a knack for coming through with power. His three-run homer Wednesday was his sixth in two years with the Mets. He is indeed, a unique weapon.
“That’s what he does,’’ manager Terry Collins said, conveniently forgetting that’s what Valdespin does because he’s rarely given opportunity to do anything else. “For some reason he loves to come off the bench. Everybody likes to play, but he loves to come off the bench when the pressure is on, the heat is on.’’Sure, Valdespin might relish batting in the clutch, but it’s a misnomer to think that’s all he wants to do. However, as tempting as it is for Collins to want to save him for that spot, one that might not present itself for days.
Given the dismal state of the Mets’ offense, and futility of using six leadoff hitters in 25 games, Valdespin must stay at the top of the order playing center field until he proves he can’t handle the role. His temperament and demeanor sometimes more represent a NBA diva, but that’s peripheral stuff that should be back-burnered until it proves to be a detriment to the team.
Collins tried to create the ideal image for Valdespin yesterday, but came woefully short in selling his position.
“One of those things with those bench players like that, you create the scene for them,’’ Collins said. “If he’s hitting third, he doesn’t come up in that situation. If he’s hitting first, he doesn’t come up there. All of a sudden, here comes the eighth hitter in a big situation. Here he is. Now you can put him in.’’
Is that a load of garbage, or what? That’s manager-speak for what, I really don’t know.
While the clutch spot of the order might not surface until late in the game, had Valdespin started he might have had two or three chances to produce, and perhaps break open the game to where there is no clutch spot. Ever think of that, Terry?
Collins did say Valdespin sometimes changes his approach to where he’s too aggressive and goes outside himself when he plays as a starter. If that is the case, then spare us the other excuses and have him work on that part of his approach.
Collins wants it both ways and that can’t be. The problem is the Mets aren’t talented enough to where they can afford the luxury of a designated pinch-hitter. They have too many holes in their order and outfield to keep Valdespin in that role.
He needs to play, if for no other reason, to find out he can’t.
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