Valencia leads Puerto Rico past DR
Twins infield prospect goes 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs in victory
MARGARITA ISLAND, Venezuela -- Twins infield prospect Danny Valencia is taking care of the future by concentrating on the present.
Valencia, touted as the third baseman of the future for Minnesota, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for Puerto Rico in Mayaguez's 7-3 victory against the Dominican Republic on Friday afternoon at Estadio Nueva Esparta. With the victory, Puerto Rico improves to 2-2 in Caribbean Series play. Despite the loss, the Dominican Republic's Escogido team remains on top of the standings at 3-1.
"I feel like I've gained a lot in this experience, and hopefully it will carry over," Valencia said. "I've been able to get some more at-bats and get some games. It's a great feeling."
The Twins didn't go after a long-term option at third base this offseason because Valencia is in the system, however the club also feels he needs more seasoning. He will likely start the season at Triple-A Rochester. Valencia remains in the mix for the third-base spot in the big leagues with Brendan Harris and Nick Punto in Spring Training.
"I'm going to Spring Training to be seen and not heard," Valencia said. "I just want to play hard and play the game right. They are not going to hand me a job anywhere, so every day is a grind and I'm ready for the challenge."
Valencia has some power and an above-average glove. Last year, he hit .284 in 57 games at Double-A New Britain and .286 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 71 games at Triple-A. He has a .299 batting average with 54 home runs and 241 RBIs in four Minor League seasons since being drafted in the 19th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
"The biggest thing for me is to not put pressure on myself and just play," Valencia said. "Whatever the team wants me to do is what I will do."
Valencia's teammate, Toronto's Randy Ruiz, continues to come up big for Puerto Rico. The slugger went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two walks on Friday. He's hitting .385 in the series and is also hoping his success carries over into Blue Jays camp in a few weeks.
Is it possible that Mets Minor League outfielder Jose Feliciano, 30, makes it to the big leagues this season before prospect Fernando Martinez? That is a question to be answered by the Mets. However, Feliciano is thriving for Puerto Rico in Venezuela, going 2-for-5 with one RBI in Friday's victory. He is hitting .444 in the series.
Martinez, 21, who played left field for the Dominican Republic team Friday, had two hits to raise his batting average to .333. Perhaps the big league question for Feliciano and Martinez will be best answered by the health and performance of Mets left fielder Jason Bay, center fielders Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr., and right fielder Jeff Francoeur.
"I don't have any control of who we have. All I can do is my thing," Feliciano said. "I just hope I get the chance I have been looking for the last couple of years. I feel great physically and mentally."
Third baseman Juan Francisco, who hit .429 in 14 games for the Reds last season, has struggled at the plate for the Dominican Republic, posting a a .188 batting average in the series, but went 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Friday. Detroit shortstop Ramon Santiago scored a run and veteran Pablo Ozuna picked up another hit to increase his batting average to .333.
"It was a big win but we still have to take this day-to-day," Puerto Rico manager Max Oliveras said. "Who is still ahead? The Dominicans. This will be an interesting finish because of the balance here."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.