The Tigers have a new closer (same as the old one).
And they are lucky to get him: “A lot of teams wanted to sign me,” Valverde said. “Like the Yankees and Mets. A lot of teams.” Count on the Yankees to spoil the fun: Yankees GM Brian Cashman told WFAN radio: “False, false, false.” Then Buster Olney piled on and said the Mets didn’t make an offer either.
At any rate, an optimist (or something) can say that Valverde is the missing piece that completes the bullpen. “Valverde could be the answer. Truly, the answer…Leyland will be able to use his bullpen cast in the slots to which they’re best-suited.” As Vince said, the greatest gain from signing Valverde may be that Leyland can manage more comfortably now, and doesn’t have to think about who pitches when.
Not that there are not opposing views. Setting aside the whole debate about how important having a designated closer even is, some are calling the signing of Valverde in particular a panic move.
For what it is worth, he did look like a different pitcher last night. He still came in with a spit and a hop (although without the trademark glasses), but has a different delivery now, and a quicker one by the way. His fastball seems to have picked up a couple mph from the end of last season. But where was that supposed improved slider? (All 18 pitches were fastballs. It may have been just too cold for anything else). Does he have a strikeout pitch? The three outs were hit rather hard. And how will he pitch with men on base? Valverde’s celebration dance was subtle and subdued, as should be ours until those questions are answered.
This afternoon is the marquee pitching matchup game, James Shields vs. Justin Verlander. Look out for Billy Butler, who has tormented Verlander at a .396 pace over his career.
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Victor Martinez. V-Mart finally became unstymied with some “in play, no out” balls. Let’s stay on a roll here.
Today’s Kelly-Time Lineup: