February 14th, 2013

Early notes: Don’t look for a closer proclamation

Four days into Jim Leyland’s morning press briefings, he has been asked about his closer situation four different times, I believe from four different sets of writers. Each time, though, he has had some sort of new information. Today’s tidbit: Don’t expect an announcement at the end of Spring Training naming a closer.

“I doubt very much there’ll be anybody anointed out of Spring Training as the closer,” Leyland said.

If you remember back a few years, it’s similar to how he handled his closer situation in 2009. Though Leyland said at the end of  camp that Rodney would close on Opening Day, he wouldn’t name a closer after that. From April 1, 2009:

“You’ll probably make a big deal about naming Fernando Rodney the closer, but I really haven’t. He could be, but it might not be just one guy. There may be somebody else that’s involved at some point.”

Rodney ended up with 37 saves that year. Brandon Lyon, who was expected to be the closer until he had a rough spring, was next in line with three. So don’t necessarily read closer by committee if, indeed, the Tigers don’t name anybody.

When Leyland was asked what Phil Coke needs to do to have better success against right-handed hitters, Leyland took that as a question about whether Coke could close. It wasn’t the intent, but it did get an answer.

“I think he’ll probably close some games,” Leyland said. “But I would not go anointing a closer, because we don’t have one just yet.”

Other notes from this morning:

  • Leyland confirmed that Omar Infante will join Team Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic. A tweet a few weeks ago, supposedly from the head of the Venezuelan baseball federation, said Infante would be added to Venezuela’s roster, but nothing was official for a couple weeks after that. Now, apparently, it’s official. Infante is believed to be the only late addition. Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Octavio Dotel were on provisional rosters for their respective countries when provisional rosters were first announced in January.
  • Leyland said he’s shocked that Jose Valverde is still a free agent. “I’m shocked, totally shocked, and broken-hearted,” Leyland said. “I talked to a couple people and recommended him very highly.” He also called Valverde “one of the best teammates I’ve ever managed.”
  • That begs the question: If Leyland liked Valverde so much and recommended him, why didn’t the Tigers make a low-risk offer to bring him back? “I think the Tigers felt that it was just time,” Leyland said. “It was a rough period at the end.”
  • The Tigers have added a left-handed batting practice pitcher. Ed Hodge, a batting practice coach for the Astros for the previous three seasons under ex-manager Brad Mills, has joined the team. A lefty BP pitcher was a topic at the end of last season, mentioned by Delmon Young. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon apparently knew about Hodge.
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