February 26th, 2012

Day 7: First serving of Big Potato

Jose Valverde doesn’t really talk a whole lot in spring training. When he does, well, he holds court.

So, while I wrote a piece for the site gauging Valverde’s chances of challenging Eric Gagne’s consecutive saves record, I didn’t really get into the Valverde personality. It doesn’t get muted for the spring.

He didn’t do anything like last October, when he supposedly guaranteed a Tigers win in the Division Series. But he also wasn’t completely serious, either.

“To be so serious, I would be old quick,” Valverde said. “I don’t want to be old.”

No danger.

When asked if he thinks he can reach Gagne’s record of 84 consecutive save opportunities converted, Valverde neither dodged nor hesitated.

“I don’t know,” he answered immediately. “Have to ask God first. I do whatever God tells me, and that’s it.”

If he gets there, he said, “I’ll be celebrating a lot.”

“I have started working right now for some dancing if I get 85 saves,” he proclaimed, much like he said he’d have a new dance in place if he saved the All-Star Game last summer.

When asked about the noise he creates in workouts, he indicated he has no place for peace and quiet.

“I want it to be noisy everywhere,” he said.

“I’ll be loud like crazy in my car, with music and everything,” he continued. “When my friend rides, he told me, ‘What are you doing? I said, ‘Do your thing. Let me do mine.'”

Other highlights …

  • On fatigue last year: “Me, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been pitching, I never get tired. The Tigers pay me for that. How can I be tired?”
  • On credit to the bullpen for his success: “It’s not only the relievers, the starters too. Because all these guys like Porcello, JV, [if they don't] go seven innings, I don’t do my job. I have to do it for everybody, not only for the relievers. I have to play for my third baseman, my first baseman, for the whole team.”
  • On whether he’s superstitious talking about his save streak: “I have a lot [of superstitions]. If I had to do all my superstitions right now, we’d be here until tomorrow. I have three pieces of gum in my pocket, my water all the time. I have a lot.”
  • On new teammate Octavio Dotel: “You know, Dotel is 21 years old right now. You have to take care of this guy. It’s great. Dotel is one of the guys I think everybody wants to play for. He’s played for a long time. He’s played for Houston, Oakland, the Yankees. He knows what he’s doing. I watched this guy pitching last year, and I feel great, because [the Cardinals] won the World Series last year [with him]. The Tigers have a chance to win the World Series.”
  • On his contract situation (he’s a free agent next winter): “You know, I have to play first. I have to do my job first. After that, I think about the contract.”

Actual workout note of the day: Again, Justin Verlander takes spring training seriously. How serious? He’ll shake off signs from his catcher, Alex Avila, if he wants to work on a particular pitch. And he did that a few times Sunday morning.

It was very much a game simulation for him, and he didn’t hide his frustration if a pitch didn’t go right. Still, as agitated as he can get, his stuff was evident.

Non-workout note of the day: Just when you thought Verlander’s offseason as a celebrity was over, he scores tickets to the NBA All-Star Game. Verlander managed to get courtside seats for the Sunday night showcase event in Orlando, and he brought Tigers catcher and noted Lakers fan Gerald Laird with him. I’m going to guess Verlander told Laird he couldn’t wear his Kobe Bryant jersey.

Quote of the day: “It’ll break my heart if he’s hurt again.” — Jim Leyland on Joel Zumaya, before learning Zumaya tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will need Tommy John surgery if he wants to try to pitch again.

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