Valdez Ready to Contribute

Valdez tossed another scoreless inning on Saturday

Jose Valdez spent the majority of 2009 in the bullpen of the Trenton Thunder with the exception of a month with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After showing improvement in his repertoire in July and August, the 6-foot-4, 186 pound Valdez was promoted to Scranton and is ready to contribute.

Valdez's season stats are not superb by any means, but they do show that he has come a long way to get where he is at now. He pitched 57 2/3 regular season innings, gave up 55 hits, struck out 60, and walked 33 while posting a 3.43 ERA.

These numbers can be misleading due to his struggles in Scranton earlier in the season, where he had a 4.19 ERA and gave up more than a hit per inning. His struggles were pointed out simply by pitching coach Tommy Phelps.

"He's a guy from the Dominican, and I believe a lot of his struggles came in the cold weather," he said. "Once it started to warm up, he started getting to 95, or 96 on the gun, which is more of what he's known for, instead of the 90 to 92."

Cold weather has plagued some pitching prospects in the past, most notably Phil Hughes, where there was an obvious difference in velocity once the summer weather set in.

Regardless of Valdez's early season struggles, all three of his pitches have been solid as of late.

"I just work hard all of the time," Valdez said through the help of a translator. "I'm happy with all three of my pitches now, and I feel good."

Valdez throws a fastball, which can top out at 97, a diving forkball, and a sharp slider.

"He's got great stuff," coach Phelps said. "He's just got to get confidence in that slider. Sometimes he worries about it getting away from him, but he's got to trust that the catcher is going to block it."

In addition to added velocity on his fastball, he's also made changes to his slider to add more command.

"I moved my arm angle up just a little bit," Valdez said. "It's working a lot better now than it was before."

A fastball in the mid-90's combined with a nasty forkball and deceiving slider does not guarantee success, however. The number one thing for Valdez is a similar theme that most minor league pitchers need to achieve: Consistency.

"If you look at the players that are in New York now like C.C. Sabathia or Hughes, or Mariano Rivera, you're going to see they do the same thing every time out," Phelps said.

"Every player, not just a pitcher or a hitter, but every player on this team and this pitching staff needs to be consistent, and that will do wonders for a guy like Jose."

Valdez was called up on Tuesday to supplement the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Playoff roster.

"I'm so happy to have this opportunity again," he said. "I've been working ever since I got sent down to get back up there, and now is my chance."

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