Veteran infielder on a tear at the plate after a slow start
By Josh Horton
SEATTLE -- When Danny Valencia arrived for Spring Training, hitting side-by-side with Mariners' stalwarts Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, his mindset was to prove he could keep up with them. He wanted to showcase his abilities as a hitter.
"Trying to hit BP with Cano and Cruz, and trying to hit just as far as they do and all the things they can do, that's not always good," said Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Danny's got plenty of power, but it's more important to be a good hitter."
At the start of the season, Valencia, who the Mariners acquired in the offseason in a trade with the A's, struggled. In his first 81 plate appearances, Valencia was hitting at an .181 clip. It prompted the Mariners to promote Dan Vogelbach from Triple-A Tacoma.
Valencia had hits in his first two at-bats Sunday against the Rays, tying Raul Ibanez (2004) for the club record of getting hits in nine consecutive at-bats. The streak ended when Valencia popped out in the sixth inning of the Mariners' 7-1 win.
Servais recalls Valencia beating the Mariners' shift multiple times while Valencia was playing with the A's last season, and wanted that version to emerge.
"I remember talking to him about that, he's got to get back to doing that," Servais said. "He's done a great job of using the whole field."
Eleven of Valencia's 23 hits since May 12 were obtained by driving the ball to the opposite field. Only six of Valencia's first 27 hits to start the season were to the opposite field.
"That's how my swing has always worked," Valencia said. "In Spring Training earlier this year, I didn't have a very good feel for right field. Right now, it feels like I can go over there when I want to. And when they play the shift the way they do, or they throw a pitch away, I feel like I'm able to hit the ball pretty hard that way."
What's changed in Valencia's approach?
"I feel like every time you come to a new team you want to impress. I think that comes with everybody with any job, to be honest," he said. "I think I've settled in, definitely."
Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.