The 51's Have Their Man at Short

Jerry Royster was in a quandary as he prepared his Las Vegas 51's for this season. All spring training his team, seemingly loaded at most positions, didn't possess a shortstop that was able to play up to AAA standards.

The incumbent, Jose Flores, had drifted off to free agency. Normally, that would mean seeing if the AA stalwart at that position, was ready. Certainly, Joel Guzman was with the bat. However, the organization had other positions in mind for him.

So, Jerry put out a 911 call. What's more, he knew the man he wanted. So, he was obliged with a trade that brought Wilson Valdez to his club. "I don't care if he even hits .200 ," Royster declared. "He can play short the way you want it played." And Jerry should certainly know, having occupied himself at that position for a number of big league seasons.

And so it is that is that among all the turmoil of players leaving, players arriving and players getting hurt that the Vegas season has once more become, that Valdez trots out to play the short field in a style that brings delight to his manager. What's more, he doesn't look like's planning on hitting .200, either for his average has fluttered about 90-100 points above that all year long.

Wilson is 28 years old now and has big league experience- 70 games in fact, split between 2004 and 2005 and between the White Sox and the Padres. But for them he averaged only .203, not nearly enough to interest either in retaining his services.

It was actually the Royals who made the deal (for righthander Jarod Plummer). And when that team is willing to get rid of you, you have to have that lonely feeling.

Not so, now, not the way he's been playing. And while the 51's year is currently a derailed train because of all those call-ups of key players, Valdez is steadiness plus for an appreciative Royster.

A 5-11, 170-pound native of the Dominican Republic, he knows how to pick, runs the bases very well and is delivering offensively. What's more, he's hitting in the No. 2 hole, not a spot you hand over to a Mendoza line candidate.

He may never get a big league call again, at least, not from the Dodgers who are currently trying to figure out how to work another shortstop, Cesar Izturis, into the lineup. So, Royster can feel relatively secure with the man he has. And he's delighted to do so.

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