OAKLAND — At 7:08 p.m. on Thursday night, just before César Valdez threw his first major league pitch in six years, 10 months and 20 days, the journeyman right-hander walked up the backside of the Coliseum mound and carved the letters “M.V.” in the dirt.
Those are the initials of his father, Miguel, who passed away in 2015 and who was the first person Valdez thought about when he learned he was returning to the majors earlier in the week.
“It was something unbelievable,” Valdez said, per team translator Juan Dorado, when asked about his long-awaited promotion. “I couldn’t explain it, but for me, it’s kind of been that road and ever since my dad passed away in 2015. I’ve kind of used that strength in kind of guiding me to keep going, to keep moving forward.”
His first offering against the Seattle Mariners — an 89.5 mph fastball — went for a strike. His second went into center field, a single for Jarrod Dyson who would come around to score a couple of batters later — the first of three runs Valdez allowed in the Oakland Athletics’ 9-6 win.
On a night when it took Valdez all of three hitters to allow his first run after nearly seven years stranded in the wilderness of the minor leagues, Mariners starter James Paxton finally surrendered his first run of 2017 when the A’s pushed across three in the third inning.
Ryon Healy capped off the three-run rally, which ended Paxton’s 23-inning scoreless streak, with the first of his two RBI singles. Healy went 3-for-3 in the opener against the Mariners and is now 5-for-7 since manager Bob Melvin left the 25-year-old out of the starting lineup on back-to-back nights earlier in the week.
“Everyone goes through struggles over the course of a season and we probably handled it appropriately, gave him a little time off to work on some things,” Melvin said.
“Now he’s off to the races again,” the manager added.
Healy was also on base in the seventh when Trevor Plouffe crushed a three-run homer beyond the wall in left, handing a 9-5 lead to the bullpen which delivered five innings of three-run ball in relief of Valdez.
“Valdez go it under control after giving up three quick runs. 80 pitches is the most he’d throw. So, I think he was at 75 or 76 and we’re in a tie game, so he really does his job,” Melvin said. “And then it was the contributions of the bullpen after that.”
Rajai Davis to miss Friday’s game with hamstring issue
After initially appearing to tweak his left hamstring will hustling down the first-base line in the sixth inning, Rajai Davis re-aggravated the same muscle breaking out of the batter’s box a couple of innings later.
“He’s got a little bit of a hamstring — maybe [a] strain,” Melvin said of Davis who exited the game after the bottom or the eighth. “I don’t know. It doesn’t feel too bad. Hopefully it’s not an issue. We’ll give him tomorrow off and probably have a better idea tomorrow how he feels.”