Jordany Valdespin is not an easy person to like, and especially hard to cheer for. Ask a question and he’ll often mumble an indifferent and inaudible answer.
He exudes confidence on the field, but crosses the line with a brash attitude, tendency to showboat and not always hustle. Off the field he wears a bright red baseball cap reading “JV 1.’’ He often carries himself with an “I own the world,” persona that goes beyond confidence, so much that manager Terry Collins has warned him to tone it down a notch.
Last year, Valdespin fell out of favor with the Mets despite hitting five pinch-hit homers. He didn’t help himself in the offseason when he was suspended in winter ball. Even so, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee and Daniel Murphy sidelined with a strained right side, Valdespin is being given every opportunity to make the roster in the outfield or as a second baseman.
Valdespin has produced, but with a caveat: He plays to his own soundtrack.
“He plays with enthusiasm,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He plays with a flair and, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.’’
It can be a painful thing, as over-the-top behavior, or shall we say, “showmanship,’’ angers the opposition. Collins warned Valdespin teams might retaliate against him. However, that wasn’t the case this afternoon when Justin Verlander plunked him in his following at-bat in which he homered in the 11-0 victory over Detroit.
Valdespin is outplaying both Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter, both of whom were the projected starters in center and right, respectively, at the start of spring training. Today he was at second as Murphy continues on the mend from a strained rib cage muscle.
“If they give me a chance to play, I can do the job,’’ Valdespin said. “That’s what I’m waiting for — a chance to play every day and then show everything I can do.’’
With all else being equal, Valdespin’s ability to play second base gives him the edge.
“If you’re going to be an extra player, the fact you can play a lot of positions means a lot,’’ Collins said. “But, we saw last year the fact he can come off the bench and be dangerous also.’’
Regardless of what happened last year, if he continues to produce and play hard – there has been no hustle issues this spring – it is hard to see Valdespin not landing a back-up spot in the outfield, presumably now as the reserve to Collin Cowgill in center if Nieuwenhuis doesn’t make it.