As a utility infielder, Chris Valaika said he has carried a first baseman’s glove in his travel bag in case of an emergency.

Valaika finally put the glove to work Wednesday, getting his first career start at first base after manager Mike Redmond decided to give Greg Dobbs a day off against a left-handed pitcher. It wasn’t just the first time Valaika played first base in the big leagues — it was the first ever in a game, Little League included.

“With Cincinnati, I had always taken ground balls over there just in case,” said Valaika, who in a span of 35 games through three-plus big-league seasons has played third base, second base and shortstop. “There was a time when Joey [ Votto] was out where I almost got in. But it never happened. … This is Day One.”

Valaika, who has known for the past few days he would likely get a start at first, had been taking grounders at first with the Marlins since the spring and began getting more work there once Casey Kotchman went on the disabled list last Thursday with a strained left hamstring.

“I remember Jack [ McKeon] threw me into third base [for one game during the 2003 season], and I had never played third base,” Redmond said. “I said, ‘Jack I’ve never played third base in the big leagues.’ He said, ‘Oh man, I’ve seen you take grounders over there during batting practice — you’re fine.’ So, [Valaika is] an infielder. He’ll be fine over there.”