Valencia targets lefties, ready to compete in East

Valencia targets lefties, ready to compete in East

BOSTON -- Earlier this week, Danny Valencia was competing for a pennant in the American League Central, but now he's very much in the mix of the AL East.

Valencia officially joined the Blue Jays on Tuesday afternoon after being traded from the Royals the night before. Toronto acquired the corner infielder in exchange for catcher Erik Kratz and right-hander Liam Hendriks to provide additional depth off the bench.

The news caught Valencia a little bit off guard, considering the Royals are in second place, but he remains excited about the change of scenery.

"It's a great opportunity here," Valencia said. "Obviously this is a tough division, teams that are always really, really tough. I was fortunate enough to play in this division last year with Baltimore and see it on the other side. It's definitely going to be a fun time, and I think this team is going to be great. I'm looking forward to helping the Toronto Blue Jays win."

Valencia was acquired primarily because of his ability to hit left-handed pitching. That's an area the Blue Jays have struggled in a lot this season, and the issue became even more severe when Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion were placed on the disabled list.

The plan appears to be for Valencia to become part of a platoon at third base, with Munenori Kawasaki and Juan Francisco. Valencia also could see occasional playing time at designated hitter or first base but isn't expected to start at second, even though he appeared in a handful of games at that position in Kansas City.

Once Lawrie returns from the disabled list, Valencia's role becomes less clear. He'll likely remain on the roster and could still start at third vs. lefties while Lawrie slides over to second base. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said it's too early to make those types of decisions and that Valencia will face a lot of lefties.

"I was never able to really pinpoint the reasoning why I hit left-handers better," said Valencia, who has a career .333 average and .879 OPS against lefties but is .227/.620 vs righties.

"Traditionally your splits should be better against left-handed pitching, but I can't really pinpoint anything. Obviously I feel comfortable in there, but it's one of those things that I carved something out for myself. You want to be able to hit lefties and righties, and I feel I can do that pretty well."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.