Thursday, April 25, 2013

Valverde or Bust...

Webster’s Dictionary defines risk as “someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard”. Jose Valverde pitched his first game of the year for the Detroit Tigers last night.

What do these two sentences have in common? Jose Valverde…

After a solid season in 2012 where he saved 35 games for the Tigers, Valverde lost his closer role in the postseason. He blew saves in critical games against both the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. The team lost trust in him and, more importantly, Valverde lost faith in himself.

After the Tigers were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants, Valverde became a free agent. He went unsigned in the off season. No other team was even rumored to have a serious interest in the former closer. It seemed as if his time as a Major League pitcher was over.

Fortunately for him, the Tigers were unable to acquire a solid pitcher in the off season to become their new closer. They appointed rookie Bruce Rondon as the new closer in Spring Training, but he struggled and was optioned to the minor leagues to begin the season. Manager Jim Leyland then announced that the Tigers would begin the season with the “closer by committee” approach, which never really works because the manager is always second guessed in those situations. He can use one person to close a game and, if it doesn’t work out, then the media and fans will question why he didn’t use a different pitcher.

The Tigers quickly learned that it wasn’t going to work out and made the risky move to re-sign Jose Valverde. He was assigned to pitch with the Lakeland Tigers (Class A level). After 3 appearances, the Tigers recalled him from the minors and Jim Leyland announced that Valverde would be the team’s closer. His first game back with the Tigers was last night against the Kansas City Royals and he retired the side in order in the 9th inning to earn the save.

Former President Jimmy Carter once said “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is”. The Tigers definitely went out on a limb by re-signing Valverde. That limb could break and make the Tigers fall short of their post season goals. On the other hand, if Valverde pitches like he did in 2011 and the 2012 regular season, it could be the move that makes them World Series Champions.

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