DENVER – On Tuesday, the Colorado Rockies regained their All-Star second baseman as DJ LeMahieu was reinstated from the disabled list.
One could make the case that his .290 batting average, five home runs and 12 RBI (coupled with three stolen bases) production was the most valuable out of any player on the roster.
A right hamstring strain has held him out of the lineup since April 30 and his teammates were able to keep the club in good shape as they just went 6-3 on a nine-game road trip.
LeMahieu not only returns to the lineup but returns to the leadoff spot, a job he and Charlie Blackmon have split this season.
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To make room on the roster for LeMahieu, Colorado optioned Pat Valaika to Triple-A Albuquerque.
This is somewhat surprising even given Valaika’s rough start. The sophomore from UCLA is slashing just .103/.175/.155 in 28 games (64 plate appearances) in 2018.
He came onto the seen hot in 2017 as the Rockies best pinch hitter and was a steady backup infielder with a powerful right-handed bat.
Bud Black noted regular at-bats as one of the reasons for the send down.
Valaika and Ryan McMahon are the only two players to back up first base this season behind starter Ian Desmond, who also plays left field. Valaika and McMahon have each started at first seven times this season.
Valaika has also played second — mainly in spell of LeMahieu — and had been the primary backup up shortstop and third baseman.
With a four-man bench, this leaves a ton of weight on rookie Daniel Castro as he’s the warmest body for four different positions, including first base … which he has never played in his nine professional seasons. Castro is primarily a middle infielder and has provided three knocks in 16 plate appearances across five games for the Rockies.
This move is surprising in one sense and limits the versatility of Desmond. It also brings into play a question of who is the backup first baseman. Gerardo Parra might be another candidate.
In another sense, as Bud Black said the best version of the Rockies includes Pat Valaika so they’ll need him to get right. The 25-year-old is more important than to toil in Triple-A and struggle on the bench.