BALTIMORE—The Orioles’ acquisition of Pat Valaika over the winter wasn’t a headline-making deal. However, it’s turned out to be a good move for the team.
Valaika, who had the first four-hit game of his career on Tuesday night, has played in 32 of the Orioles’ 36 games. Only Anthony Santander (36), Renato Núñez (35) and Hanser Alberto (34) have played more.
Valaika has started games at second base, shortstop, third base and left field and filled in at first base, too.
“Speaking wih [manager Brandon] Hyde before the season and during spring, he wanted to try to get me in there as much as he could,” Valaika said in a video conference call.
“It’s definitely nice getting in there, playing a lot and getting at-bats. I’ve had years where I’ve kind of just been a pinch-hitter. It’s tough. You just take care of the day-by-day, and you hope to see your name in the lineup.”
Valaika, who turns 28 on September 9th, continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-3 with a walk in the Orioles’ 9-4 loss to the Mets on Thursday, and is hitting .289. For the last two days, Valaika started at second base in place of Alberto, who is out because of a sore knee.
“It’s always nice to get into a rhythm,” Valaika said. “Expect to have four at-bats in a game. It’s nice to just compound those at-bats, and it gets you in a groove. In years prior, my at-bats had been sporadic. You do the best you can with whatever situation you’re given. That’s how I’ve always done it.”
Valaika spent the previous four seasons with the Colorado Rockies. His best season came in 2017 when he played in 110 games, hit .258 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs.
Last season, Valaika spent much of the season with the Rockies’ Triple-A Albuquerque team and hit .320 with 22 homers and 75 RBIs. In 40 games with Colorado, he hit just .190.
After the season, the Rockies waived him, and the Orioles claimed him on October 30th.
He was waived by the Orioles to make room for another infielder, Richard Ureña, who wasn’t included in the 60-man player pool, claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks on January 18th, and reclaimed on January 30th.
On February 11th, Valaika was outrighted by the Orioles when they claimed yet another infielder, Ramón Urias, who was with the team briefly last month.
Valaika made the team on a minor league contract, and it’s worked out well.
“It’s been great. I like our team,” Valaika said. “I know we’re in a rebuild, but the guys in that locker room, we all have the same goal, and that’s to win every night.
“We’re never going out there thinking we’re overmatched or anything. I love our lineup and our pitching staff. When we all contribute together, we’re pretty good. I think we might surprise some people.”
Valaika probably will spend today with his 10-month old daughter, whom he doesn’t see enough during the season.
“Days off are nice,” he said. “Day games are even nice when you get a few hours to feel like a normal human being.”
Valaika wears No. 74, a number that’s high for a player in his fifth major league season.
“It was funny. When I got here, they just gave me that number,” Valaika said. “It was actually my debut number with the Rockies. My intention was to switch it, but I started off not too bad, and I was, like ‘You know what, I’m just going to roll with it,’—74 it is.”
The Streak anniversary: The a Orioles will mark the 25th anniversary of Cal Ripken’s record for most consecutive games played on Sunday.
Ripken will throw a first pitch to his son, Ryan, an Orioles minor leaguer, in a spot that was previously recorded at Oriole Park. It will be shown at various ballparks around baseball.
Orioles uniformed personnel will wear a patch commemorating 2131 on Sunday.
Question time: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week, and if you have one, please leave it in the comments section or send it to: [email protected].