Pinch-hitting is one of the most difficult assignments in baseball. A guy who's been watching the game for at least a few innings from the dugout is called upon to grab a bat, get up there and make something happen.
Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets is making the whole ordeal look sort of easy.
The 24-year-old rookie utility man from the Dominican Republic entered Friday's action as the major-league leader in pinch-hit home runs with five. He also led in RBIs as a pinch-hitter with 10.
Consider this: Valdespin, who of the many positions he can play (mainly outfield for now) prefers second base, was 6-for-24 as a pinch-hitter going into Thursday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Five of those hits were home runs.
"It's a lot different than the minors. I've worked hard to make it to the top of the ladder," Valdespin said in Spanish. "I've always had power. I just worked hard with hitting, and I'm always looking for my pitch and sticking to my routine. I thank God for the opportunity."
Valdespin makes the most of his chances. It's not even August and Valdespin has the Mets' record for pinch-hit homers in a season.
"It's a big deal for me to be in the major-league record book, and that of the team, above all," he said. "It feels good. I've worked hard for this and it's such a blessing."
Valdespin plays in the New York metropolitan area not far from a large Dominican community. He even has aunts, uncles and cousins there and tries to spend time with them.
"They've been there for a while and when we hang out, we might go see a play," Valdespin said.
He'd like to be a starter one day - that's the goal of any player, Valdespin said - but is patient.
"In reality, everything is a process. One has to wait for his moment and for the decision that he can be an everyday player," Valdespin said.
Given that Valdespin has a penchant for the big hit, there is a buzz at Citi Field when Valdespin comes up to bat, a bit of contradiction to his softspoken manner. But Valdespin hears the fans and appreciates them.
"It's great when you go up to bat and the fans are cheering," he said. "It's great motivation and gives you confidence. I'm thankful the fans like me a lot and I hope to keep making them happy."
So to sum up, Valdespin has turned out to be some kind of pinch-hitter, and he's just a rookie. Though the Mets have struggled of late and have fallen out of the NL East race, Valdespin is enjoyibg every minute of his time in the bigs.
"Every day here in the majors, I've had some great days," he said. "You have to enjoy the time here because you don't know what can happen or how long you'll be up here."