August 31st, 2011

Valverde goes 40-for-40, sore back and all

If you were expecting a special celebration for Jose Valverde going 40-for-40 on save chances, you were probably a little disappointed. If you were expecting drama, you weren’t.

One out away from an orderly ninth  inning, Chris Getz’s single put the potential tying run on base. One strike away from leaving him at first, Valverde couldn’t get pinch-hitter Brayan Pena to chase fastball outside.

That was partly by design. It wasn’t an intentional walk, but it was essentially the Tigers opting to face Alcides Escobar instead. Manager Jim Leyland had gone to the mound after a first-pitch ball to give his closer a message.

“Pena was 3-for-4 off him,” Leyland said, “So I just told him, ‘Look, whatever you do, don’t give in to him. If you walk him, I don’t care. … If you get behind, whatever you do, don’t throw strikes.'”

Valverde wanted to face him. Once the count went full, however, he didn’t risk it.

“Everybody knows Pena has good power, and I threw a sinker away,” Valverde said. “That’s what I had to do, and face Escobar. Everybody knows Escobar is a good player, but he doesn’t have the power that Pena has.”

Escobar had enough power to loft a fly ball into right field. He did not have enough power to make a threat out of it.

With that, Valverde had his 40th, the longest streak ever by an American League closer to start a season. The only longer streaks both come from the National League — 55 by Eric Gagne in 2003, and 41 from Brad Lidge in 2008.

Stretch streaks into multiple seasons, and Valverde’s 42 consecutive saves put him alone in fourth place on the all-time list. Gagne saved 84 in a row from 2002-04, Tom Gordon had 54 in 1998-99, and Lidge saved 47 straight from the end of 2007 until the start of 2009.

It was a rather subdued celebration from Valverde, who admitted he has been dealing with a sore back.

“My boy here, [Joaquin] Benoit, I made him a promise,” Valverde said. “I said if I do 50, I’ll do something special. … I promise, if I get 50, I’ll have something special for you.”

If he gets there, hopefully, his back should be fine. It’s still a little issue, Valverde said, but nothing serious.

“What I want to do is compete all the time. … I want to go on the mound every day, no matter what happens,” Valverde said. “My back, my neck, my arm, I want to compete and go to play for my teammates.”

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Royals

The Tigers had an abrupt adjustment in approach when starting pitcher Felipe Paulino was scratched with back spasms. Nate Adcock gets the start, but it doesn’t change the approach. Ramon Santiago gives Jhonny Peralta a day off at shortstop, while Don Kelly starts in right field.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ramon Santiago, SS
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Wilson Betemit, 3B
  8. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  9. Don Kelly, RF

P: Rick Porcello

ROYALS

  1. Alex Gordon, LF
  2. Melky Cabrera, CF
  3. Billy Butler, DH
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
  6. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  7. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
  8. Salvador Perez, C
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS

P: Nathan Adcock

Marte gets call to Detroit as bullpen addition

The Tigers don’t have to worry about playoff roster eligibility with their September call-ups, since they can turn disabled list spots from Joel Zumaya and Brad Thomas into open spots to add guys who aren’t on the active roster until September. However, guys have to be added to the 40-man roster before they can become September call-ups. That’s apparently happening with right-hander Luis Marte, who’s turning a statistically big season in the Double-A Erie bullpen into what would be his first Major League stint.

Word from the SeaWolves after Tuesday’s game is that Marte is being called up to Detroit. He’s expected to be a September addition. The Tigers have not yet announced their September call-ups, and likely won’t until Thursday.

The numbers from the 25-year-old speak for themselves. With a 5-foot-11 frame and a nasty breaking ball, Marte allowed just 29 hits over 53 innings, walking 18 and striking out 68. He did that over just 23 games, including seven August appearances that all lasted two innings or longer. With that kind of role, his 1.70 ERA looks more significant.

Marte basically heated up around midseason. Add together his last 10 outings, and he allowed three runs on 15 hits over 27 2/3 innings, with six walks and 35 strikeouts.

The Tigers will have to purchase Marte’s contract to add him to the 40-man roster. However, they have an open spot still left over from Chance Ruffin’s trade to Seattle, so they won’t have to make any return move.

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