Day 11: Sarasota
Day 10 was an “off day,” so no ballgame for me. Today, I was back at Ed Smith Stadium to watch the Red Sox and Reds play. Both teams had more or less their ‘A’ lineups in for much of the game, but there were some interesting names. Anthony Rizzo got into the contest for the Red Sox late, but struck out in his lone at-bat. So we’ll go with a Red for today’s Prospect Inspection:
It’s hard not to like Chris Valaika. The shortstop is outgoing, personable, loves to play for Team USA (he’s done it like 428 times… ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration). He made some headlines during his debut in 2006 when he reeled off a 32-game hit streak while playing for Billings. He was our Short-Season Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts. He’s got a .306 career batting average and reached Double-A for the first time last year. The UC-Santa Barbara product hit .317 last year with 18 homers and 81 RBIs across two stops.
He was in big-league camp, but had been sent down before I got here to take over. He certainly made an impression, hitting .353 in 17 at-bats before moving over to the Minor League side. He hit a tie-breaking grand slam in his final game against the world champion Phillies… not too shabby.
One of the benefits of how things are set up here is it’s really easy for Minor Leaguers to get called over for big-league games when there’s a need. The Minor League side is literally within spitting distance (not that I’ve tried) of the big-league side. So, with Alex Gonzalez out with a minor hamstring issue and Jerry Hairston Jr. just getting back into the swing of things, there was a need for a backup shortstop to come in behind today’s starter (and prospect in his own right), Paul Janish.
I saw Valaika signing autograhps before the game here and realized I might get lucky and get to see him play a few innings. He made a nice play in the field at short and then added a single in his lone at-bat. That raised his official Spring Training average up to .389. No one is going to outwork him, that’s for sure. So while maybe this was the last AB he gets with the big-leaguers this spring, something tells me Cincy fans should prepare for seeing the 23-year-old again in the not-too-distant future.