Scottsdale, Arizona — There is plenty of talk about the competition at second base for the Colorado Rockies this offseason. There is also plenty of competition for roster spots among a young and talented crew.
Valaika hit two home runs on Sunday in Colorado’s 9-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The blasts were his third in two days and are reminiscent of a magical 2017 season when his 16 pinch-hit RBI led Major League Baseball.
His second blast on Sunday was a towering shot that drew plenty of smiles in the Rockies dugout and hopes that Valaika has put behind him a 2018 where he hit just .156/.214/.256 in 133 plate appearances.
"“I’m getting good pitches to hit in good counts and not missing,” Valaika said after Sunday’s win. “I’m slowing it down. Taking it step by step. Honestly, forgetting about last year and moving on. That was a big thing for me. Learn from it. Improve on it. It’s in the past now and I’m just focused on the future.”"
Colorado manager Bud Black is liking what he is seeing early on this spring from the 26-year-old Valaika.
"“Those were two good swings today,” Black said. “That’s something Pat is capable of. We saw that quite a bit in ’17 where he had good aggressive at-bats and quality swings. Last year was a little tougher for him. The league made adjustments. He got off to a tough start with the broken arm in spring training and just couldn’t get on track from there.”"
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Valaika’s name is among those mentioned when the open starting job at second base is discussed, joining Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson, with Brendan Rodgers likely to make his Major League debut sometime this season. However, like the other three players battling for the job, Valaika brings a high degree of versatility to the Rockies, something that Black loves.
"“We’ve moved him around. We probably won’t be afraid to put him out in the outfield at some point,” Black said. “We are taking a hard look at so many guys and Pat is in the mix.”"
Black likes Valaika’s track record and work ethic as well.
"“We like what Pat’s done. He’s done that before,” Black said referring to Valaika’s power streak. “He has a great head on his shoulders. The way he goes about his day and prepares to play, he’s very trustworthy.”"