Valentin adjusting to new role

Valentin adjusting to new role

TORONTO -- Usually one of the Reds' backup catchers, Javier Valentin had the protocol all figured out for his first career start at third base.

"I'm going to wear my mask," Valentin joked on Wednesday.

Valentin made his first career appearance at third base late in Sunday's game at New York and made a similar cameo there on Tuesday vs. the Blue Jays. Reds manager Dusty Baker informed Valentin on Tuesday he would be starting on Thursday.

"He told me last night to take some ground balls at third base and that I was going to get a game over there," Valentin said. "I thought he was joking."

Regular third baseman Edwin Encarnacion hasn't played since his lower back went into spasms on Sunday. Encarnacion, who could be out a few more days, was set to take some swings off a tee to test his back.

"He says he's still feeling it," Baker said. "We hope it's nothing more than spasms."

Jeff Keppinger could have played third base, with rookie Paul Janish taking shortstop. However, Janish entered in a 2-for-33 (.060) slump. Baker was also looking for all the extra left-handed offense he could put together for Thursday's game vs. Toronto starter Roy Halladay.

Thus, Valentin manned the hot corner. In his first two appearances, he did not have to field a ground ball. At Rogers Centre, he will have to contend with artificial turf. While there are no bad hops, the ball travels faster on the ground than on natural grass.

"As soon as I get one, everything will be fine," Valentin said. "You get one good move and that's it. You don't have too much time. Just react with the ball and you'll be fine."

This is likely to be a short-lived experiment. Jerry Hairston Jr. is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Thursday. Hairston will likely play shortstop and Keppinger will shift to third base until Encarnacion is able to return.

In 39 games entering Wednesday, Valentin was batting .218 with no homers and six RBIs.

Valentin's last start was exactly one month ago, on May 25 at San Diego, and it was at first base. Before Wednesday, he had started only seven games overall. So going to third base was no problem.

"I don't care," Valentin said. "I want to play, that's it. I want to feel comfortable. I want to help the team. Anything I can do."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.