Wilson Valdez was a 31-year-old, journeyman utility infielder when he came to spring training with the Phillies in 2010. From 2004 to 2009, he had played with five major league teams but never stuck with any team for longer than a season.
But Valdez, now 33, has managed to stick with perhaps the unlikeliest of teams, a Phillies club with All-Stars at every infield position. Unfortunately for the Phillies, their aging infield All-Stars have been injury-prone.
Fortunately for the Phillies, they have Valdez to plug in when Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins or Placido Polanco is down. Valdez went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs in the Phillies' 7-2 win over the Brewers on Thursday, the team's fourth straight victory. All four of the wins have come over potential playoff opponents, Atlanta and Milwaukee.
More remarkably, the Phillies' latest win came with Ryan Howard (left foot bursitis), Utley (concussion) and Rollins (groin strain) out of the lineup. It was the first time the franchise-player trio had all been out of the lineup in a meaningful game since Sept. 12, 2004. (They were all rested in the final games of the 2008 and 2009 season to rest for the playoffs).
With the Phils trailing 1-0 in the sixth inning, Valdez sparked a two-out, six-run rally with an RBI double.
"We have to push," Valdez said. "We knew we weren't going to have Chase and Howard, but we had to fight and take the win."
Manager Charlie Manuel said, "When you start winning games, and you have success, when you put your reserve players in there, they want to play and be a part of it. They want to show they can earn the right to be on our team. That can bring your team completely together."
Valdez is front and center of that contingent of bench players.
Since Polanco injured his back in early July, and then Rollins injured his groin last month, Valdez has started 25 games. He's hitting .283 over that period with 10 extra-base hits.
"I feel good at the plate," Valdez said. "I'm working every day to get better, and the last couple games, I feel really comfortable and I see pitches I can hit. And I got lucky, I guess."