The Blue Jays’ lack of rotation depth has forced them to be, uh, resourceful at times with their starting pitchers—29-year-old rookie Casey Lawrence, middle reliever Joe Biagini, a washed-up and struggling Mat Latos. Tonight gave them one more to add to that list: 32-year-old minor league journeyman César Valdez, back in the majors after seven years of trudging through various farm systems. This season has given him his first shot in the big leagues since a brief period back in 2010, when he was a 25-year-old rookie, and tonight gave him his first win since.
Valdez allowed one run over six innings against the A’s, striking out four with five hits in Toronto’s 4-1 win. Very much decent, then, but unspectacular—yet still enough to earn him a standing ovation, and pretty wonderfully so, given the circumstances.
A seven-year gap between major league appearances isn’t exactly common. But when it does happen, there is usually something specific to answer why—there is usually a serious injury, or decision to walk away from the game that is ultimately reversed, or some other such circumstance that forces some of that time out. Valdez had none of these things. He just had seven years of trying. Other than a few months voluntarily spent away from baseball during the 2014 season, Valdez has been playing this whole time: at the Triple-A clubs of the Marlins and Pirates and Astros, for several different teams in the Mexican League, in Dominican and Venezuelan winter ball, everywhere except for the major leagues.
Valdez’s first win came in his big league debut, for the Diamondbacks in May 2010. He made one more start before being moved to the bullpen for a few weeks, and then he was pushed down to Triple-A. He spent the rest of the season there and never made it back up. Now, finally—in his fourth career start for his third different big-league club, with his rookie eligibility still intact—he’s made sure that first win isn’t his only one.