Results tagged ‘ Jose Valverde ’

Valverde tosses two hitless innings in scrimmage

Jose Valverde tossed two hitless innings Monday afternoon in his second outing at Tigers extended Spring Training, striking out four with no walks in a scrimmage against a Canadian junior national team of 16, 17 and 18 year olds at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.

This was the second of two scheduled outings for Valverde, who reported to extended Spring Training last week after signing a minor-league contract with his old team a week and a half ago. What happens from here hasn’t been announced, but team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said the day they announced the signing that Valverde would most likely get his test against Triple-A hitters at Toledo before the Tigers made a decision. Whether that would happen now or he might get another spring outing isn’t clear, but statistically, he has had little trouble against hitters in Florida, though the latest group of hitters consisted of teenagers — some of them likely headed for the MLB draft, some of them committed to college programs in the U.S. — who were probably surprised to see a veteran Major League closer on the mound. Among those in the other dugout were 18-year-old right-hander Nathan Borges.

Valverde has an opt-out clause in his contract that he could exercise if he’s not in the Majors by May 5.

Boras: “We thought there would be a need”

This is what Jose Valverde’s agent, Scott Boras, said a week ago:

“Our plan was to wait and see what closer options availed themselves at this time.”

This is what Boras said Thursday evening:

“We were patient, and we thought there would be a need in the organization.”

He found it. In the end, it was in the place he targeted all along. Whether Valverde is the one to fill it remains to be seen.

It’s a low-risk signing on the Tigers’ part, basically allowing them to get a look at Valverde against live hitters and see if what they’ve heard about Valverde’s fastball and splitter, and what a team evaluator saw, hold up. It’s a chance for Valverde to essentially showcase himself in the camp where the opportunity is high and the potential reward is higher.

Boras said Valverde had opportunities with other teams (which sounds a lot like similar offers), but that the familiarity with the Tigers and the opportunity to fill save situations on a contending team made the most sense. Boras’ remarks above made it sound like this was where he thought Valverde could fit for a while.

On the Tigers’ side, it appears they’ve been gauging this for at least a week, ever since Bruce Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. When Boras made the remarks he made last Thursday, he said Valverde had already thrown for a few teams, and had a couple more set to watch him. When Dombrowski announced the signing, he said a scout watched Valverde throw in the Dominican Republic last Saturday.

The negotiations, Dombrowski said, came together Thursday morning, starting with a text message in the middle of the night and reaching a breakthrough with the willingness to take a minor-league contract with no guarantee of the big leagues. While Dombrowski said they’ve discussed “parameters” of a potential Major League contract should the Tigers call him up by his opt-out date of May 5, Boras suggested they had the framework of a deal ready should it come to that.

The opt-out date gives the Tigers about a month to look at him. It might not take that long. Boras said Valverde will report to the Tigers’ Spring Training facility in Lakeland this weekend and start throwing. He’s already throwing bullpen sessions every other day, so it shouldn’t take long for him to stretch out to the point that he’s ready to face live hitting. He could be ready in two or three outings down there for his shot at Triple-A Toledo.

From there, it might just take a handful of outings to get a yes-or-no answer.

“We’re not looking to prolong this,” Dombrowski said. “It’s a situation where he can either pitch and come back and help us here or we probably end that relationship at that time.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers not only have to evaluate Valverde, but also how they plan to work their bullpen going forward, with or without him. If Valverde does get the call, does the 35-year-old automatically assume his old role as the unquestioned closer with the same workload? If not, can he handle the ins and outs of a closer by committee, specifically the ins and outs of pitching sometimes in non-save situations?

Is this the beginning of the end of the closer by committee idea?

“We do not have a dominant closer,” Dombrowski said Thursday, “and most clubs that have a chance to win have a closer. That doesn’t mean you can’t win by mixing and matching, either, but right now we’re in a situation where we’re mixing and matching and if the situation ends up being better with Papa Grande, with Rondon, with whomever it may during times, we’re open-minded to that.”

As expected, Phil Coke available out of bullpen

Wednesday’s rainout was enough of an off-day for Phil Coke that the left-hander is now available out of the bullpen again. Jim Leyland said Wednesday afternoon he was going to rest him, which Mother Nature allowed him to do.

What that means for the closer’s situation is more of the same.

“Everybody’s available today,” Leyland said this morning, “and we’ll play it by ear.”

When (if at all) do you go back to Big Potato?

Got home from the rainout last night in time in tune in MLB Network for Cards-Giants highlights, but also caught an interesting take from Larry Bowa, who said he would use Jose Valverde in the ninth inning of Game 4 if the Tigers had a two-run lead or more. If it was a one-run game, he would still with Phil Coke.

It brings up an interesting point: IF you’re going to try to ease Jose Valverde back into the closer’s role, do you try to do it with the chance at an ALCS sweep? Do you give him a save situation at all for his first game back?

Keep in mind, it’s a different question now than it was last night, because Coke should now be available for Game 4. For that matter, Joaquin Benoit and every Tigers reliever other than Coke haven’t thrown in three days.

Leyland hopes Valverde’s ready “in the very near future”

There was no off-day workout in Detroit on Monday, so the media access was limited to conference calls. That included manager Jim Leyland, who continued to carefully walk a tightrope on Jose Valverde’s status.

In title, as expected, he remains the closer. In actuality, the Tigers still have a closer by committee for now, and he’s going to play the matchups. But Leyland sounded like somebody who didn’t plan on having Valverde on hiatus for long.

“I am hoping that Valverde in the very near future is ready to take back over,” Leyland said. “As I said, that is pretty important that we have him.”

Leyland has talked about the importance of getting Valverde back as a part of this bullpen. Monday was the first time he directly referenced getting him back closing, other than saying he’s the closer.

On that same conference call, however, he sounded like Valverde’s still very much a work in progress.

“We have to make sure we get Valverde straightened out,” Leyland said. So you do what it takes to win the game. Whatever you think is your best option, that’s what you do.”

Valverde wasn’t available Monday, but he said after Sunday’s win that his pregame side session with pitching coach Jeff Jones went well.

“It’s good — so far,” Valverde said.

Valverde out at least next few days with sprained wrist

Jose Valverde will miss at least the next 3-4 days with what has been disagnosed with a sprained right wrist, but neither the closer nor the Tigers expect him to require a stint on the disabled list while he recovers.

Valverde, who suffered the injury while warming up in the bullpen Tuesday night, underwent an MRI exam that showed inflammation around the flexor tendon in his wrist, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Wednesday afternoon. He’ll wear a wrist immobilizer for the next few days before he’s re-examined.

If he’s pain-free at that point, he can try to throw.

“We’re just going to treat him day to day and go from there,” Rand said.

The Tigers medical staff is not expecting that to take long.

“We’re not thinking it’s a long-term situation,” Rand said.

Earlier, Valverde said he still felt soreness in the wrist, but that it was a little better than it was last night.

“Last night, when I threw the last pitch, I couldn’t move my fingers,” Valverde said. “It hurt too bad last night. I couldn’t do anything. I’m a guy who wants to compete all the time. Something simple, I’d never shut it down. But last night, I couldn’t do anything. …

“It’s better today than yesterday. That’s why I think it’ll soon go away.”

With Valverde out, manager Jim Leyland he’ll use his relievers by matchup when it comes to save situations. Phil Coke earned the save Tuesday night, but Joaquin Benoit filled in for Valverde while he was sidelined with back soreness earlier this season.

Octavio Dotel also has closing experience over his many Major League stops and stepped in to get the save after Valverde’s back issues forced him out May 15 at Chicago, though he failed miserably in a save situation a week earlier in Seattle.

Even if he’s not closing, though, Dotel has the potential to be a critical piece. If Benoit’s closing, or if Benoit’s off, Dotel becomes the primary right-handed reliever.

“He’s a big key for us right now,” Leyland said.

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.

Three Tigers win Negro League Legacy Awards

One more set of awards for you, this one from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City: Justin Verlander did not win MVP honors this time, but he earned the AL’s Bullet Rogan Pitcher of the Year award. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson won the AL’s Oscar Charleston Award for MVP. Jose Valverde won the AL’s Hilton Smith Award for top reliever. Miguel Cabrera, meanwhile, was the winner of the Buck Leonard award for top batting average in the league.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum established the Legacy Awards in 2000 to honor baseball’s best with awards given in name and spirit of Negro Leagues legends such as Charleston, Rogan, Smith, Leonard, Josh Gibson and Buck O’Neil. The awards are scheduled to be presented in Kansas City on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012.

Verlander wins Cy Young by unanimous vote

If you were worried about Verlander’s chances, you shouldn’t be. All 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America went to Verlander, who won the AL pitching Triple Crown. Here’s the story from the site.

Jered Weaver, whom Verlander outpitched July 31 at Comerica Park, took second place over James Shields and CC Sabathia. In a bit of a surprise, Jose Valverde finished fifth, including one second-place vote and three votes for third.

Tigers pick up $9 million option on Valverde

With the World Series going to a deciding game Friday, Major League teams will have a slew of announcement on contract options coming by Monday’s deadline for deciding them. The Tigers’ decision on Jose Valverde didn’t have to wait through the weekend. He’s coming back at a cost of $9 million.

Valverde’s option year was part of the two-year, $14 million deal he signed as a free agent before the 2010 season. It wasn’t always looking like an automatic that the Tigers would pick it up, especially after Detroit signed Joaquin Benoit to a three-year, $15 million deal last fall. It had the appearance of a closer-in-waiting situation. Then Valverde went 52-for-52 in save situations between the regular season and playoffs.

They weren’t always easy saves, especially down the stretch. But in the end, the numbers were dominant: He allowed just 52 hits over 72 1/3 innings in the regular season with 34 walks and 69 strikeouts. Break down the stats to just save situations, and they were even stronger, with just three earned runs on 26 hits over 49 innings with 20 walks and 50 strikeouts.

Valverde is the only contract option the Tigers had to decide this offseason.

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