Print and Go Back SweetSpot [Print without images]

Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wilson Valdez latest unlikely mound hero

By Stephanie Liscio

The Phillies' victory in the early hours of Thursday morning was initially remarkable for how it started, with Roy Halladay on the mound against a Reds team he'd no-hit in the National League Division Series last year. But people won't easily forget how it finished, 19 innings later.

When infielder Wilson Valdez stepped onto the mound for the Phillies in the top of the 19th inning, he wasn't just being asked to do something out of the ordinary. True, Valdez was coming into a tie ballgame, which was unusual enough for a position player. But he was also facing as formidable a group of sluggers as the Cincinnati Reds possess, a trio that any full-time reliever would be worried about: reigning National League MVP Joey Votto, frequent All-Star Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce, who had hit his 13th home run of the 2011 season in the 10th inning.

Even though Valdez hit Rolen with a pitch after getting Votto to fly out to center, he managed to retire the side because he got to face Reds pitcher Carlos Fisher with two outs and that one man aboard. As a result, when the Phillies scored in the bottom of the 19th on Raul Ibanez's bases-loaded sacrifice fly, Valdez had earned his first win as a pitcher.

Valdez was not the first position player called upon to pitch in a bind, nor will he be the last. In fact, there are a number of memorable pitching performances by position players, but many of them took place in the midst of blowouts, rather than long extra-innings affairs. Of all of these, Valdez was the only player to earn a W for his efforts:
After Valdez's success in the top half of the 19th, perhaps the Reds might have envied the Phillies for using a position player to pitch when their half of the inning rolled around. However, Dusty Baker had already emptied his bench of position players, although he had a pair of swingmen, Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney, still potentially available instead of sending out Fisher for a sixth inning of very long relief.

However, the last time Baker sent a position player to the mound for the Reds, nobody involved enjoyed any success: Shortstop Paul Janish came into a blowout against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 6, 2009, and allowed five additional runs to add an exclamation point to a 15-3 loss.

Ian Kinsler
Sometimes your reach exceeds your grasp, but Ian Kinsler gave it his best shot.
Stephanie Liscio is an obsessive Cleveland Indians fan and blogs about them at It's Pronounced "Lajaway," part of the SweetSpot network. She is also the author of "Integrating Cleveland Baseball."