SAVANNAH, GA - No one in the Sand Gnats lineup was more valuable than Jordany Valdespin during the month of April. Now, with greater competition around the horn, the second baseman is adding to his craft by doing more to deepen his game.
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After returning to Savannah after being sent down to extended spring training in early May, Sand Gnats infielder Jordany Valdespin has been one of the best hitters in the clubs lineup.
“When I was sent down I was disappointed, but I used it as motivation to work on some things and be a better player all around,” said Valdespin through Jose Carreno who translated.
“After I came back to Savannah, I realize my role here and I feel that I can be a successful utility guy and be used wherever the coaches need me,” he continued.
“I can be a designated hitter if they need me to be or play second or shortstop. I just have to keep my mental approach where it needs to be and be ready to play everyday wherever my manager needs me.”
Carreno, a field coach for the Sand Gnats, shares Valdespin’s view of his role with the Mets South Atlantic League affiliate.
“He is definitely a key player for us. He is fast and can play multiple positions and it’s important to have a guy like that on any team,” said Carreno.
Valdespin has been successfully fulfilling that role, as he ranks near the top of the team in multiple categories including second on the team in triples (3), and third in stolen bases (7) and slugging percentage (.846).
With the recent fallback in production from Josh Satin and Sean Ratliff, Valdespin now owns the second highest average on team with .322, just behind newly acquired infielder Matthew Gaski (.500 avg.), who was one of the players called up after the departure of pitchers Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Kaplan.
After spending the majority of his time at second base early in the season, Valdespin has been splitting time at second and shortstop after his return to Savannah. The ability to switch between the two positions gives the Gnats some much needed depth and gives manager Edgar Alfonso an alternative at shortstop when the 17-year-old Wilmer Flores, the second rated player in the organization, needs a rest.
“I’m used to playing second base, so I would say that shortstop is the main position that I need to work on,” said Valdespin.
“I also want to improve my fielding at second but shortstop is a spot where I want to improve my consistency in that position,” he mentioned.
Valdespin was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic as a shortstop, before being moved to second when he was brought up to Savannah after spending 2008 in the Gulf Coast League.
“He needs to work on his defense at both positions,” said Carreno.
“He is used to playing shortstop, but after spending a lot of time at second, he needs to be consistent and comfortable at both spots in order to be an effective utility player for us,” he added.
The 6-foot, 174-pound infielder has been used to split time as the leadoff man for the Gnats, with Flores and right fielder Rafael Fernandez.
Valdespin has had success leading off for Savannah as he is hitting .316 in that spot, which ties him for fourth on the team with left fielder Juan Lagares.
He also enjoys playing in the confines of Historic Grayson Stadium, as he is hitting an impressive .397 at home and just .270 on the road in 2009.
With seven stolen bases so far this year, he ranks third on the team behind Lagares and Fernandez.
Valdespin realizes his speed is an advantage, but wants to work on his footwork.
“I want to work on my acceleration and base running. I have worked in the offseason, working on my footwork and the coaches have been trying to work with me this season with my legs to help me improve in that area,” he said.
“I know that if I can do the things to utilize my speed, it will be something that can get me to the next level.”
Valdespin has been resting as of late after suffering a minor ankle injury in the opening game of Savannah’s series against the Charleston Riverdogs on June 2.
Gaski has been filling in and producing well at second in Valdespin’s absence, however after a few days of rest, Valdespin looks to return to Gnats lineup as they take to the road with a three game series against in-state rival Augusta this weekend.
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