"It was the first time I really struggled bad," he said. "It was about making adjustments. I was getting by on talent alone.
I had to learn how to be a baseball player and understand what was happening. In a weird way, I think it helped me."
The frustration got the best of him. He broke his hand hitting a water cooler and missed five weeks.
"I think everyone has those moments when it gets away from you," he said. "It gave me a chance to sit back and observe,
something I might not have been able to do if I was playing. I was kind of too close to the problem."
Valaika hit .161 before the injury and .260 after it. His best month was August when he hit .318.
Triple-A is a big adjustment.
"I think it was just a combination of things, guys being veterans in Triple-A, having an idea of what they're doing," he said. "I'm sure it's ever more so in the big leagues. If they find a hole, they're going to keep exposing it until you make adjustments.
It's cat and mouse."
Valaika did not play Winter Ball.
"I took the winter off and got to clear my head a little bit.
I'll go into the season, having an idea, a clue. Now, I think I can make adjustments and ride that wave and eventually get out of it."