BOSTON -- Right-handed pitcher Merkin Valdez has taken a convoluted route back to the big leagues. He wasn't even sure if he would complete the journey. "No," he said. "Last year, I had a really bad year. I'm just thankful for the opportunity. I really worked hard and all I can do is take advantage of it." Valdez was a surprise September callup as an extra arm in the bullpen, but he was throwing the ball the best of all the Triple-A Round Rock relievers. He also has Major League experience with the Giants and Blue Jays. Once a top prospect in the Giants' organization, Valdez missed all of 2007 because of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
He made it back in 2008 and had a 1.69 ERA in 17 appearances for the Giants. He spent '09 with them and was 2-1 with a 5.66 ERA in 48 games. Then came the odyssey. He was sold to the Blue Jays in the offseason, sent to the Minors after two games and posted a 7.91 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Dodgers signed him to a Minor League contract and sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he was 4-2 with a 3.58 ERA before being released on July 18. The Rangers signed him a week later and sent him to Round Rock, where he was 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 12 games. In 15 1/3 innings, he allowed four runs on 14 hits, five walks and 14 strikeouts. "He throws hard," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "We had good reports out of Round Rock. He's one of those guys who had to take a hiatus from the Major Leagues. Hopefully this time it clicks in this time around."