TORONTO -- An unlikely season has forced the Blue Jays to search for answers in unlikely places, and with his performance in Tuesday's night's 4-1 victory over Oakland, Cesar Valdez provided one.
The journeyman -- who won for the first time since his big league debut in May 2010 -- may have the opportunity to be more than a short-term plug, too. Valdez's outing likely earned him at least one more start in place of Aaron Sanchez, who is back on the DL with recurring blister issues, and Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline could create even more opportunity in the Blue Jays rotation.
"I believe in what I do out there," said Valdez after the win. "If they give me the opportunity to start again, I hope to do even better. So I just hope to have the opportunity again."
Valdez gave the Blue Jays six innings on 77 pitches, allowing just one run and saving a taxed Toronto bullpen from carrying another heavy load. After benefiting from a healthy rotation in 2016, Toronto has given 10 pitchers a start this year, with Valdez the latest to take the hill.
This rotation spot will come around at least once more before Sanchez is activated from the DL. Valdez's second career MLB win puts the right-hander in a position to control his own fate. Beyond Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are on expiring contracts and could draw trade interest leading up to Monday.
"He pitched the other night and was really, really good in Boston," manager John Gibbons said, "so it's in there. He's trying to make his way, but he gave us a huge lift today. Good for him."
Pitch efficiency was critical for Valdez on Tuesday as he forced seven groundouts. This lines up with the 32-year-old's 53.5 percent ground-ball rate with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons this season, and it's something his infielders would love to see more of going forward.
"He worked fast, threw strikes, kept the defense on our toes," Ryan Goins said. "It's nice when a guy works fast and throws strikes like that. You know you're going to get a lot of action. It was great, hopefully he gets another chance."
Valdez has pitched all over the baseball world, including a recent stint in the Mexican League from 2012 to '15. Through those testing seasons, and going forward with the Blue Jays, Valdez has something that keeps him going.
"It was my dad," Valdez said. "In 2015, he passed away and he was always the guy that would push me and drive me to stay in baseball. So when he passed away in 2015, everything I do now, it's on his name. Everything. When I win, when I'm in the big leagues, when I pitch. Everything I do, it's for him. So he keeps me driving, even if he's not with us anymore."