DENVER - Coming into this season, even before the injuries occurred in spring training and even before the opening day roster was announced, we at BSN Denver were looking to the Colorado Rockies bench as the biggest weakness on the team.
It was unclear where they are going to get their quality at-bats off the bench late in games or the guy who could play to give Nolan Arenado of DJ LeMahieu the occasional day off without it also meaning an automatic loss for the club. Cristhian Adames came into the year with a ton of skepticism aimed his way and has done nothing to dissuade that. Alexi Amarista was never here for his bat, Mark Reynolds played himself into a starting role and Stephen Cardullo proved to be an unexciting option.
But in the midst of all that, the Rockies quietly added a player to the 25-man roster who has been an absolute godsend to the part of the team that most desperately needed improvement; Pat Valaika.
The utility infielder actually made his season debut in left field and whatever role he has been asked to fulfill so far, he has done so with success. As a pinch hitter, he has slashed .300/.300/.500 which is three hits, two doubles, in ten at-bats. Overall (he has started two games) he is getting on base at a .314 clip with four doubles. His success coming through as a part of some pivotal innings in close Rockies wins, provoked BSN Denver Vice President Ryan Koenigsberg to dub him "Pat Valatenight."
BSN Denver talked to Valaika after his spot start at third base where he smashed his first home run of the season and second of his career, filling in for Nolan Arenado for a night. He also made a great defensively stop on the very first play of the game. "Ball always finds you, it's kind funny, it was good to get in the game early," Valaika said.
For him, the key will continue to be staying within himself and making sure he is ready whenever his name is called "I've got to help my team out any way I get a chance," he says. "I'm just trying to put the barrel on the ball. I just try to do whatever Bud asks. "
With Trevor Story going to the 10-day disabled list, Black has turned to Valaika to play every day at shortstop. His play has merited such a move.
If the Colorado Rockies are going to surprise the national audience and make themselves true contenders in 2017, they are going to need all hands on deck, they are going to need some great performances in individual games from guys the other team didn't necessarily come into the game fearing. They are going to need Pat Valatenight.