With the bullpen by committee experiment having come to an end, Leyland is one happy man tonight. But I’ll guarantee you the Tigers’ fan base isn’t happy. They will react to the return of Valverde by with a complete and utter overreaction.
Think of the Tigers as the voice of reason, reminding everyone to, “REMAIN CALM, ALL IS WELL. WE HAVE A CLOSER.” The fan base will not listen and react by steamrolling Kevin Bacon and riot during the homecoming parade.
They always say it’s who you know. In the Tigers’ case, it’s good to know the guy with the Marlboros. Jose Valverde can vouch for that. After a few innings against Canadian teenagers and 20-year olds, he gets to skip not only Toledo but any type of major league audition. Flying Tiger one day, Tiger closer the next. Literally. The Tigers signed Papa Grande to a one-year contract and made room by sending Brayan Villarreal down to Toledo.
Surprised that Valverde is back? You probably should be. The Tigers expressed no interest in re-signing him following the 2012 season and took him back earlier this month only after he and agent Scott Boras agreed that Valverde would sign a minor-league contract with no major-league guarantees.
The Tigers had until May 8 to kick the tires. Obviously, they didn’t need that long. They clearly believe they are getting the 2010-11 version of Valverde and not the 2012 model. Valverde turned into a one-pitch pitcher at times last season even before his postseason implosion. But he’s been throwing the ball “extremely well,” according to Dombrowski.
This has the makings of a Hollywood-type ending for the Tigers and Valverde, who appeared certain to part ways after his disastrous run in the playoffs. It also could end up being a significant public-relations gaffe for a Tigers club that put its chips on youngster Bruce Rondon, only to send him to the minors out of camp.
Interestingly, Rondon and Valverde could make their 2013 debuts in the same game, as Rondon also got the callup, earlier Tuesday.
Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland have spoken recently to Valverde, who wanted to pitch once more, Monday, before deciding if he was ready. On Tuesday, he said he was.
“One thing you know about him,” said Leyland, “he’s done it before and he’s not afraid. We know that. Those are two things we know.”