NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jordany Valdespin is getting his shot with the Mets. A shot at regular playing time — and a shot at winning over his teammates.
In the wake of Ike Davis’ demotion to the minors, the struggling Mets are shuffling the right side of their infield and giving Valdespin an opportunity to show what he can do at second base, his natural position.
“I think it’s my time,” said Valdespin, chastised by Mets veterans this season for showboating on the field. “If I don’t do my job, I’ll go to the bench again.”
A starter at first base since 2010, the slumping Davis was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday along with outfielder Mike Baxter and reliever Robert Carson. So while Davis is in Las Vegas trying to rediscover his stroke, second baseman Daniel Murphy will often move over to first and the 25-year-old Valdespin will play second.
“We trust Terry, and he runs the ship,” said Murphy. “I’m a player. So when he tells me, ‘This is what I think is best for the team’ … I’m excited about it.”
That was the alignment for Tuesday night’s series opener against St. Louis, the Mets’ first game since shaking up their roster. Murphy made an error in the fifth inning that led to five unearned runs in a 9-2 loss to the Cardinals.
“It’s a ground ball that I should have handled, but I booted it,” Murphy said. “It’s not my first time playing first base, and it gave them life.”
Valdespin was in the leadoff spot and is likely to start most of the week as New York faces six straight right-handed starters.
“It’s not pressure, it’s just the same baseball. Same baseball, same at-bats,” Valdespin said. “When they give you the time, you’ve got to be ready for it, to help the team.”
And while Murphy has plenty of experience at first base, it’s still something of a delicate decision by the Mets.
For one, Murphy has worked hard to become an adequate second baseman and the last thing the club wants to do is stunt his development — especially since he’s one of the few consistent hitters in the lineup.
New York also chose not to shift Lucas Duda from left field to first base, where he has played before.
“What trumped everything is we don’t think Ike’s going to be gone very long,” manager Terry Collins said.
Valdespin is not particularly popular with his teammates — or opponents, for that matter — because of some of his flashy antics on and off the field. Rarely do Mets players seem to chat with him in the clubhouse these days, and now the team is moving pieces around to get him in the lineup, hoping his intriguing combination of power and speed can help.
Valdespin spent most of last season in the majors and made the club out of spring training this year but has seen most of his action as a pinch hitter and backup outfielder.
“The major thing is that, as we look down the road, this does allow us a chance to play this guy,” Collins said. “When you break down his tools, he’s got as good tools as anybody. Let’s get him in the lineup and see what he can do on a daily basis.”
Valdespin lined out in his first at-bat Tuesday night and went 2 for 4 with a strikeout. Michael Wacha (1-0) recovered from a wild start to earn his first major league win, and Allen Craig hit a three-run homer off Jeremy Hefner (1-6).
Omar Quintanilla homered for the Mets, who gave up a major league-high seven unearned runs and lost for the seventh time in eight games since a season-best five-game winning streak that included a four-game sweep of the Subway Series against the New York Yankees. They dropped 13 games under .500, their lowest mark of the year.
Before the game, Collins was asked if it might bother some Mets that Valdespin is getting rewarded with playing time due to the demotion of the popular Davis.
“That is a great question. But I’ll tell you, if Jordany Valdespin plays up to his tools, he’ll help us win ballgames and guys will turn their heads on some things,” Collins said. “But along the way because of the guys in that clubhouse, they’re going to be on top of some things with him, such as how to carry himself on the field. And they’re not going to let that go.
“As I’ve said for two years, I’ve never seen more guys cheer for a guy in my time than they do for Ike Davis. So I think there were some guys disappointed that it finally came to this,” the manager added. “But it does send a message that, you know what? You’ve got to perform here.”
As for Murphy, he said he’s “excited” about moving back to first base — although he already gave away his old first baseman’s mitt thinking he wouldn’t need it anymore. He said he would borrow Justin Turner’s glove and didn’t expect to pick up a new one for himself.
Murphy still plans to put in pregame work at second to stay sharp over there.
“This is the fun part,” he said. “I get to follow directions. It’s easy.
“This is about winning baseball games. It’s not about playing one position or another,” he added.
New York called up first baseman Josh Satin, outfielder Collin Cowgill and left-handed reliever Josh Edgin from Las Vegas. Collins said Murphy probably will “fluctuate a little bit between first and second” to give Satin some opportunities at first, especially against left-handed pitching.
“Dan Murphy’s a pretty good first baseman. We’re not losing much at first base. As a matter of fact, we may not be losing anything at first base. So I think it was pretty easy,” Collins said. “I felt comfortable due to the fact that it’s the same side of the infield. And I know one guy who can be bounced around, it’s him.”
NOTES: Mets 3B David Wright (National League) and New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano (American League) will be team captains for the Home Run Derby during All-Star festivities at Citi Field. They will choose and invite the other members of their squads.
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