Phillies' Valdez joins the likes of Ruth and Foxx
The baseball was stuffed inside Wilson Valdez's locker, and the memory was indelibly implanted in his head. Just a few hours after becoming the first Phillies position player to earn a pitching victory in nearly 66 years, Valdez was back at Citizens Bank Park Thursday morning and in the lineup at third base for the series finale with the Cincinnati Reds.
The baseball was stuffed inside Wilson Valdez's locker, and the memory was indelibly implanted in his head.
Just a few hours after becoming the first Phillies position player to earn a pitching victory in nearly 66 years, Valdez was back at Citizens Bank Park Thursday morning and in the lineup at third base for the series finale with the Cincinnati Reds.
When he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat in the second inning, he was greeted with a standing ovation, the final tribute for his unlikely mound work during the Phillies' 5-4, 19-inning victory over the Reds that started Wednesday night and ended Thursday at 1:19 a.m.
Valdez, 33, said pitching a scoreless inning by retiring reigning National League MVP Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, the current league leader in home runs, was the highlight of his journeyman career.
"The fans were cheering like crazy when I was on the mound," he said. "It was fun for me because I had a chance to pitch, and we took the win."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Valdez became the first player to start a game in the field and later earn a victory as a pitcher since Babe Ruth beat the Philadelphia Athletics on Oct. 1, 1921. Valdez, with his scoreless inning, was much better than Ruth, who surrendered six runs on nine hits in four innings against the A's.
Ruth was also hitless that day. Valdez finished with three of his team's 13 hits against the Reds.
"I have to be proud of myself and glad to be [one of the few] in history to do this," said Valdez, who was also the first Phillies position player to earn a victory since Jimmie Foxx started and won a game against Cincinnati on Aug. 19, 1945.
Like so many of his teammates, Valdez got little rest before having to report back to the ballpark for Thursday's series finale with the Reds. He said he packed his suitcase for the nine-game road trip that begins Friday night against the Mets in New York and had a conversation with his wife, Kamie, who was asleep at the couple's home in New Mexico when he took the mound.
"She was sleeping and received a telephone call from her mom," Valdez said. "She told me her phone rang, and her mom told her that I was pitching. She jumped out of bed and turned on the TV."
Valdez's scoreless inning was the most fascinating of the long evening, mostly because he shook off catcher Dane Sardinha and called him to the mound to talk strategy about how to pitch to Votto. Starting catcher Carlos Ruiz, who moved to third base for the 19th inning, was definitely amused.
Ruiz whispered as he relayed the conversation between Valdez and Sardinha: "He called Dane to the mound and he was like, 'Hey, I'll pitch inside.' "
Valdez explained why he wanted to go inside to Votto, who launched a long drive that was caught by Michael Martinez in center field.
"He saw three pitches outside," Valdez said. "He was going to think something else was coming outside, so I decided to throw a sinker in."
When pitching coach Rich Dubee asked Valdez if he could pitch, the infielder started going over his arsenal with Ruiz.
"We were talking - I don't remember what inning - but they asked him if he wanted to throw and he said, 'Yes, why not?' " Ruiz said. "He said, 'OK, I'm going to throw sinkers and sliders.' If you're a position player, you're going to throw the ball over the plate. The funny thing was when he wanted to throw his fastball in. That's unbelievable."
Valdez said his arm felt fine after his 10-pitch performance. Danys Baez, who threw 73 pitches in a five-inning relief appearance, also said his arm felt fine. It was his highest pitch total ever in relief. Baez allowed just one hit.
"He was the best I've seen him this year so far," Ruiz said. "He was locating fastballs real good on both sides of the plate. He threw a couple split-finger pitches, and he did a real good job."
A baseball inscribed with "Wilson Valdez, winning pitcher" was stuffed in the infielder's locker, and he was asked in the morning if the Hall of Fame might also be interested in having a ball from the game.
"They're still sleeping," he said.