Valdespin signs Minors deal with Tigers

Club agrees to terms with five other Minor Leaguers

Valdespin signs Minors deal with Tigers

DETROIT -- The last time many Tigers fans heard about Jordany Valdespin, he was limping off the field at Joker Marchant Stadium, hit in the groin by a Justin Verlander fastball. Three years later, Valdespin returns, having agreed to terms with the Tigers on a Minor League contract.

The deal does not include an invitation to Major League camp, so barring depth issues, Valdespin will report to Minor League camp and likely open the season at Triple-A Toledo.

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In addition to Valdespin, the Tigers also agreed to Minor League contracts with five other players -- right-handed pitchers Logan Kensing, Melvin Mercedes and Dustin Molleken, infielder Alberto Gonzalez and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. However, only Kensing and Schierholtz were invited to Major League camp.

Valdespin, 28, is a superutility player who hits left-handed -- a role he filled as a middle infielder and outfielder with the Mets in 2012 and '13. After the Mets non-tendered him following a 50-game suspension as part of Major League Baseball's BALCO investigation, he spent most of the last two years with the Marlins, who released him last August.

Valdespin played two games in Miami last July, going 0-for-4, while spending the rest of the season at Triple-A New Orleans. He batted .293 for the Zephyrs with 12 doubles, three triples, two homers, 20 RBIs and a .734 OPS. He's a career .216 hitter with 15 homers, 52 RBIs and a .639 OPS in 214 Major League games.

Valdespin has been playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic in an attempt to earn a contract. He entered Tuesday batting .270 with four doubles, a homer and 16 RBIs while stealing 11 bases in 12 attempts.

Valdespin was still with the Mets in Spring Training in 2013 when he made the trip to Lakeland, Fla., for a Grapefruit League matchup with Verlander and the Tigers. He homered off Verlander that afternoon, but became better known for an ill-fated attempt at a bunt in the fifth inning. Verlander, who struggled with his command that day, lost a 94 mph fastball and hit Valdespin in the groin, sending him to the ground writhing in pain.

Verlander Welcomes Valdespin

The Tigers have been on the lookout for utility help, having signed Mike Aviles to a Major League contract last week to fill a similar role in Detroit as a right-handed hitter.

Gonzalez and Mercedes are returning to the Tigers' organization after spending the 2015 campaign in the Minors, while Schierholtz is returning to the United States after playing in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League in 2015.

Schierholtz, who turns 32 in mid-February, was a rumored Tigers target in past seasons as a versatile left-handed hitter before heading to Japan.

Schierholtz hit 21 home runs with the Cubs in 2013 before batting .195 the next season between the Cubs and Nationals. He played this past season with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan's Pacific League, batting .250 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in 65 games.

Schierholtz is a .253 hitter in 799 career Major League games, with 52 home runs and 228 RBIs. He also has 41 career outfield assists, nine of them in 87 games in right field in 2014.

Kensing, 32, pitched in 19 games for the Mariners this past season, allowing 10 runs on 12 hits over 15 1/3 innings, with seven walks and 13 strikeouts. He made 19 more appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, allowing eight earned runs on 29 hits over 32 1/3 innings, with 10 walks and 25 strikeouts.

For his career, Kensing has 177 Major League innings over 154 appearances, all but three of them in relief. He's 10-10 with a 5.80 ERA, 96 walks and 157 strikeouts.

Mercedes, who turned 25 last month, pitched in one game for the Tigers in 2014 and ranked on MLB.com's Tigers Top 30 Prospects as recently as this past summer before becoming a Minor League free agent this offseason. He posted a 1-2 record and 4.95 ERA in 60 innings between Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie, walking 23 and striking out 52.

The 32-year-old Gonzalez, a veteran of seven Major League seasons, spent most of last season in Erie after joining the Tigers as a free agent last offseason. The native Venezuelan batted .283 for the SeaWolves with 11 doubles, two home runs and 19 RBIs.

The 31-year-old Molleken has pitched for 12 seasons in the minors and two in Japan. He had one of his best seasons in 2015 as an Indians farmhand at Triple-A Columbus, going 5-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 40 relief appearances with 27 walks and 52 strikeouts.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.