In case you have not noticed, Red Sox reliever Phillips Valdez is sporting a new glove this season.
Previously, Valdez has worn a red glove throughout his first two seasons in Boston. This year, however, the right-hander has been rocking a bright blue glove that features red lacing.
When asked about what led to the change by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith earlier this month, Valdez said he saw his friend, Cardinals reliever Genesis Cabrera, wearing a similar glove in the Dominican Republic. He thought Cabrera’s glove looked “nice,” so he decided to get one for himself.
After making the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster for a third consecutive year, Valdez has gotten his 2022 campaign off to a strong start. While pitching mostly in low-leverage situations out of Boston’s bullpen, the 30-year-old has struck out 10 and walked only one over six relief appearances spanning eight innings of work.
It’s obviously early, but among major-league relievers who have pitched eight or more innings so far this season, Valdez ranks second in strikeout rate (35.7%), sixth in walk rate (3.6%), second in batting average against (.080), first in WHIP (0.38), third in FIP (1.68), and first in xFIP (2.36), per FanGraphs.
According to Baseball Savant, Valdez has also been effective in other areas while utilizing his changeup, sinker, and slider. The 6-foot-4, 192 pound hurler currently ranks in the 89th percentile in fastball spin, the 86th percentile in expected batting average, the 85th percentile in expected slugging percentage, the 87th percentile in walk rate, and the 89th percentile in punchout rate.
Whether it be the new glove or something else, Valdez has proven to be a valuable member of Alex Cora’s bullpen a few weeks into the 2022 season. Boston may be in 0-6 in Valdez’s appearances, but he is at the very least allowing Cora to preserve his other, more high-leverage relievers for another day.
With that, Valdez could very well remain on the Sox’ big-league roster even after roster sizes shrink from 28 to 26 players on May 2. That is no guarantee at this point, but still something worth monitoring nonetheless.
(Picture of Phillips Valdez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)