But Valencia really struggled last season, batting just .198 in 34 games with the Twins. He was demoted to Triple-A and eventually was dealt to the Red Sox in August. Combined, he hit .188 with a .193 on-base percentage in 44 big-league games in 2012. Against left-handed pitching, however, Valencia is a career .316 hitter in 326 plate appearances over parts of three seasons.
“His real strength to a team is his capability to hit left-handed pitching,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said of Valencia. “At his age and his experience level, there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to regain the level where he was a top vote-getter for Rookie of the Year.”
Traditionally a third baseman with average to below average skills – he made 18 errors at third in 2011 – Valencia has played 22 games at first base in the minors and also could serve as a DH against lefties, Duquette said.
Since Valencia still has minor league options, he could end up as the starting third baseman at Triple-A Norfolk, especially with Manny Machado expected to be the Orioles’ primary player at the hot corner in 2013.
To make room for Valencia on the roster, the Orioles designated first baseman Joe Mahoney for assignment. The 25-year-old was hitless in four at-bats with the Orioles in 2012, when he made his big league debut. A sixth round pick in 2007, the Orioles have 10 days to trade release or ask waivers on Mahoney, who would have to return to Triple-A Norfolk if he is not claimed on waivers.
The Orioles currently have a full, 40-man roster, however, that could change Friday when the team may non-tender contracts to several arbitration-eligible players, including Mark Reynolds, Omar Quintanilla, Steve Pearce and Taylor Teagarden.
“We are talking to some of our players, trying to them signed,” Duquette said.