Valdez Working Hard And Loving It

    VERO BEACH, Fla.- For Wilson Valdez the credo is, "Work is fun." It sounds like something he learned from Big Brother in 1984 but, hey, it's something he truly believes and it's doing okay by him.

   Valdez was a last-minute addition to the Dodgers just before the start of the season last April when they needed a shortstop for Las Vegas to fil the void created when Joel Guzman was moved to the outfield. So, they picked up Wilson from the Royals whereupon, then-Vegas manager Jerry Royster stated," He's my shortstop and I don't care if he hits only .200."

   Wilson admits he was disconcerted by the move, although one wonders why,because the Dodgers make the eighth orgaization he's been with  since becoming a pro back in 1997. When he got off to a 2-for-17 start, he decided, "I'm not having fun," so he worked harder, the hits began falling in and he was moved to the top of the batting order.

  "I told Willie Aybar, you hit behind me and you'll drive in a lot of runs," he recalls now. Willie didn't stay around to fufill that prophecy, first moving up to the Dodgers, then being traded to the Braves in the Wilson Betemit deal. Others profited, though for Wilson wound up scoring an organization-high 94 runs while also leading the organization with 157 hits.

  He not only was getting on a lot, he was setting up those runs by stealing bases. "They told me I could run when I wanted to so sometimes I stole second and then I'd steal third," he notes with pardonable pride. As it was, he totaled 26 swiped bags. 

  When the Dodgers acquired him the thinking may well have been that he'd be a temporary replacement for a year but he did so well that he was promoted to the 40-man roster at the end of the season. Now he's in camp, trying to make the team.

  He's certainly not going to be the shortstop as long as Rafael Furcal can walk onto the field so it would have to be as a utility man. He feels he's qualified to do that. "I play second and I have played the outfield, too. If they want me to, I'll take my glove and go out there."

  He's no stranger to big league play, having been in 70 big league games for the White Sox, Mariners and Padres. However, he has a lot of rivals for a berth on the big club so may well be another who has to go back to Vegas and await developments.

  In the meantime, the 28-year-old Dominican lives his dictum. "When the others leave for the day, I'll get a coach and head for the batting cages to work on something,"

    As long as he can do that, he's definitely having fun.