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Valdez makes return to majors as A's host Mariners

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners will renew their American League Western Division rivalry on Thursday with a fresh face on the mound for Oakland.

He's also a bit of an old soul.
Cesar Valdez, who has not pitched in the big leagues since 2010, will start in the first game of the four-game series. Oakland, which has won two in a row after dropping four straight, has been looking for a replacement for Kendall Graveman, who wound up on the 10-day disabled list Monday.

It will be a tough matchup for Valdez as the Mariners will counter with James Paxton, who has a 2-0 record and has not allowed a run in 21 innings this season.

The Mariners have been hot. Rookie Mitch Haniger reached base five times and had four RBI in a 10-5 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. Haniger, who had three hits, extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Kyle Seager also had four RBI and reached base four times.

So, Valdez will have a lot on his plate. The Mariners went 6-3 on their homestand.

The A's signed Valdez as a minor league free agent in November. He was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts for Nashville before getting the call from the A's.

"He's a very deceptive guy to have to face," A's catcher Bruce Maxwell told the Mercury News. "He can anger you as a hitter. There's a lot of stuff he throws -- fastball, changeup, curve, slider, even a sinker. He could probably mix in a knuckleball if you asked him to.

"I'm excited for him. I know it means to him what it means to all of us to get called up. He's going to want to shine. This is his shot."

Valdez, 32, was signed by the Diamondbacks out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. He pitched in nine games in 2010, including two starts. He sat out the 2014 summer season before pitching in 2015 in the Mexican League. He also has spent time in the Houston, Florida and Pittsburgh organizations.

"We were impressed by what we saw from Valdez in spring training," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "The thing is: Every injury to somebody is an opportunity for somebody else."

Seattle manager Scott Servais, whose team has had its ups and downs, doesn't seem anywhere near panicked. It's a long season.

"Fifteen games (are) not a fair judgment," Servais said before Wednesday's victory.

Paxton was named Player of the Week on Monday. Not bad for a guy who was in Triple-A Tacoma last season, working on his technique and trying to get back in the Mariners' mix.

"He's certainly deserving of it," Servais told ESPN. "Pax is throwing the ball outstanding, off to a great start. Look back to where he was last year at this time. It's been quite a turnaround, and certainly we saw in the second half (of 2016) kinda moving in the right direction and he's just continued to expand upon it, and good for him. He's in a really good spot right now."
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