The big news of the day is – as hinted at by MLB.com’s Jason Beck – Jose Valverde is skipping the Toledo leg of his minor league tour and coming straight back to Detroit. The Detroit News reports that not only will Valverde be joining the team shortly, he will be installed immediately as the team’s new closer. Brayan Villarreal, who seemed to have lost any sort of mechanical consistency last week, is going down to Toledo to get straightened out. Hopefully he’ll find that release point soon and be back in a couple of weeks.
The idea of resigning Valverde in general has not been popular with Tigers fans or the Tiger-internet, prior to or following Dave Dombrowski’s decision to actually sign the guy. His numbers in Lakeland haven’t been that amazing (though they haven’t been bad) but the decision to call him up was apparently made based on scouts and coaches that liked his stuff and his conditioning. They are usually right about these things, so I’ll try to be calm and hope for the best. For me, and probably most other Tigers fans, if Jose Valverde comes out missing bats and getting 1-2-3 innings last postseason will be quickly forgotten and it will simply be nice to have our closer back (especially at a bargain price). After all, Valverde was a fan favorite before we all turned on him.
Now, the problem is that the realistic best case scenario would just be a Jose Valverde that approximately duplicated the averages from his 3-year tenure in Detroit. And while he racked up quite a few saves, it isn’t as though he never blew one and it certainly isn’t as though he never got himself into jams on the way to saves. Valverde is going to start his season here guilty until proven innocent, he’ll have zero margin for error as far as Tigers fans are concerned. Joaquin Benoit has not looked very good so far this year, neither did Octavio Dotel, but those guys don’t see fans calling for their heads every time they give up a run. I think Valverde will, from fans that never stop grumbling about the fact that that idiot GM brought him back to begin with.
It’s entirely possible that Jose Valverde is “back”, and the Tigers could use the old Valverde right about now. Even last year’s regular season version had some value. It’s just as possible that he won’t look particularly good the first few weeks that he’s back in Detroit – so I’d say to just bear with him and hope for the best. I don’t think that I agree with the idea of installing him as closer, but I certainly don’t like the idea of counting on Benoit, Rondon or Coke right now either. Mainly I don’t like it because if he pitches badly that means the team loses a game and it gets pinned on him (that’s the nature of the closer role). If he gave up a run or two when the team was already down, there wouldn’t be anything like the rage against the Potato that we’re going to see. He would have a chance to earn back a little bit of the trust from Tigers fans that he lost in game 1 of the ALCS. As it stands, when he comes into the game against KC tomorrow just grit your teeth, pour a stiff drink and try to pretend you still trust him. If you do, you’ll probably start to remember why you liked this guy and in the end maybe you will again.