Valaika thriving in constantly changing role

Valaika thriving in constantly changing role

PHILADELPHIA -- As a utility player, your job description requires always being on call.

Chris Valaika is certainly learning that with the Marlins.

The 27-year-old, in his first season in the organization, is constantly adapting on the fly. On Saturday, for instance, he came to the ballpark figuring he would be starting at first base.

Those plans changed about an hour before the first pitch, once second baseman Donovan Solano was scratched due to a tight left oblique. So Valaika ended up playing second, while batting leadoff for the first time in his big league career.

He came through with a couple of standout defensive plays, and also belted a home run in the Marlins' 2-0 win over the Phillies.

"That's my job, to come in when things happen like that," Valaika said. "I'll play second, third, first, wherever I need to be. These guys play every day. If I can give them a breather, a day off, that makes me happy."

On Sunday, Valaika was back playing second base. He batted second behind Juan Pierre.

Pierre was off on Saturday, getting a day to rest against the left-handed Cole Hamels. On Sunday, Philadelphia started right-hander Roy Halladay, and Pierre was back in the top spot.

On Saturday night, Valaika consulted Pierre on what he should expect hitting first.

"When I found that out, I asked JP, 'What do I need to do up there?' He told me, 'Go up there and swing. You don't need to be somebody you're not,'" Valaika said. "That made me feel good knowing our leadoff guy said, 'Go get 'em.'"

Valaika's homer was the second of his career, with the other coming while he was with the Reds in 2010. In his third big league game, he went deep off Chicago's Tom Gorzelanny.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter