Tigers sign Jordany Valdespin to minor-league deal

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.

A source confirmed the initial report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. 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.

Valdespin, who turns 28 years old on Wednesday, is a superutility player who hits left-handed, a role he filled as a middle infielder and outfielder with the Mets in 2012 and 2013. 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 (75-for-256) for the Zephyrs with 12 doubles, three triples, two homers, 20 RBIS and a .734 OPS. He’s a career .216 (92-for-426) 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 for Estrellas. He entered Tuesday batting .270 (37-for-137) 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 for a Grapefruit League matchup with Verlander and the Tigers. Valdespin 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 all game that day, lost a 94 mph fastball and hit Valdespin in the groin, sending him to the ground writhing in pain.

“He took a hack at the first pitch. He already hit one bomb,” Verlander said at the time. “And then the next one, he just totally squared at me, and I’m like, ‘Oh God, this isn’t going to be good.’ Right out of the hand, it’s like, ‘Oh, [crap], that is right at his … ‘”

The two could be opponents once again if Verlander ends up pitching in a minor-league camp game in March. They could also be teammates if Valdespin makes a trip as an extra player for a day.

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.

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