The Jose Valverde Experiment is Over

Detroit Tigers Closer Jose Valverde
Detroit Tigers Closer Jose Valverde
Jun 12 2013 Kansas City MO USA Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland 10 walks to the mound to relieve relief pitcher Jose Valverde 46 in the ninth inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium The Royals won 3 2 Denny Medley USA TODAY Sports

At least it should be.

Tigers GM David Dombrowksi, as I mentioned prior to the outset of the season, wrongfully put the Tigers closer job into the hands of an unproven 20-year old kid in Bruce Rondon, who’d never pitched in the Major Leagues and prior to that had only pitched a handful of innings above AA.

And when Rondon failed, they went running back to Papa Grande, for worse.

This year, Valverde has pitched 17.1 innings over 18 games, earning nine saves and blowing three with a 4.15 ERA. Here’s the catch, and hopefully the straw that breaks the camel’s back: Valverde has given up five home runs and seven runs in his last 5.1 innings.

He isn’t getting better. He’s getting worse. He’s the same pitcher we saw during the 2012 playoffs, who had to be relieved by lefty Phil Coke.

Closers aren’t supposed to give up runs, let alone home runs. This is the Tigers problem: their closer gives up home runs —  a lot of them.

What are the poor Tigers to do? Their bullpen is in disarray. Octavio Dotel is still sidelined with injury, Phil Coke is wildly inconsistent, The Jose Ortegas, Al Alburquerques, Brayan Villarreals and Luke Putkonens of the world are likely here today and gone tomorrow. So where do the Tigers turn to fill the role?

It will have to be Drew Smyly. The lefty has started for the Tigers in the past but has been successful out of the pen thus far in 2013, making him the only real in-house option. By all accounts, Joaquin Benoit is comfortable (and effective) as an 8th-inning man. Moving him would be a mistake.

I’m not saying make Smyly the closer, it’s just that he’s the only viable in-house option at this point, unless you’re okay with taking another trip to the Rondon-Zone.

The other option? Wait a few more weeks until flailing clubs begin throwing off salary, and move around some prospects. I tend to disagree with SJN Editor Igor Derysh that Nick Castellanos is a sleeper worth keeping an eye on, and that he’s more likely worth taking a nap on, but his recent surge might be perfect timing and it could help the Tigers in the department of trade-bait.

Whatever happens, it needs to happen soon. The Tigers are a team that goes beyond “on-paper” in all categories except closer. Jose Valverde wasn’t the answer. Move on.

Wednesday night it was aptly said by Bob “Wojo” Wojnowski on Detroit’s 97.1 The Ticket, “Valverde should get a job at 7-11. They never close.”

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Tomas Laverty
Tomas Laverty, frequent contributor to the MLB section, runs a Detroit web design company called Detroit Spaces.