Danny Valencia made his major-league debut last night, going 1-for-3 while starting at third base in a 4-1 loss to the Mariners. Valencia looked fine offensively and defensively, and for those who've wondered when the team's top third base prospect would finally get his chance, it was refreshing to see the 25-year-old manning the hot corner.
Now, one wonders what the plan is for Valencia. Ron Gardenhire said recently that the team called on the young third baseman to fill in against a lineup of tough left-handed starters the Twins are set to face over the weekend. It would seem that when Michael Cuddyer returns from bereavement leave on Tuesday, Valencia will return to the minors (unless Orlando Hudson lands on the disabled list).
So what's the deal? The Twins have seemingly been of the mindset that Valencia should stay down in Rochester, playing regularly, until he's ready to come up for good. Now he's being called upon to make his major-league debut during a tough road trip with the caveat that he'll probably only be with the Twins for a handful of days before packing up and heading back to the minors, regardless of his performance.
It could be that the Twins want to take this opportunity to give Valencia a brief audition. Or it could be that they want to ride out his latest hot streak.
Valencia is a notoriously streaky player. When he's locked in, he can tear up opposing pitchers, putting up multiple hits night after night. When he's in a funk, the 0-fer's can pile up in a hurry. This season has been a fine case in point; the third baseman got off to a slow start in April, batting just .256 with a disappointing .306 on-base percentage. In May, he turned it on, kicking those figures up to .330 and .384.
The trend is not unique to this year. Check out Valencia's AVG/OPS figures for each month in 2009 where he had significant playing time:
April: .269 / .858
May: .373 / 1.110
June: .262 / .706
July: .287 / .770
August: .283 / .703
It's worth noting that the numbers from the first two and a half months or so are from Doble-A while the second half of the season was spent in Triple-A, which helps explain the drop-off, but Valencia was red-hot even after being promoted to the Red Wings last year. He didn't start slumping until he'd already been there for several weeks.
Valencia's performance tends to fluctuate quite a bit throughout the season. Over his past 10 games in Rochester, he'd been hitting .324 with a .439 OBP. Perhaps the Twins called on him to ride out this hot streak before he inevitably falls into another funk. Let's hope his bat can keep rolling this weekend in Oakland, because right now the Twins need all the offense they can get.