By: Mike Stone
Monday night’s Tigers 3-2 victory at Kansas City highlighted the always tough decision that a manager has to make concerning his pitcher. Justin Verlander had thrown 104 pitches after 8 innings. Should Jim Leyland have left him in? The answer is yes. Leyland did, but after another 9th inning struggle, should he have come out after he walked a batter to put the lead runner on base? Leyland went to the mound, obviously to to take him outright. Nope, He left him in and promptly hit the next batter with the first pitch to load the bases. Verlander than managed to strike out Alex Gordon to end the game.
Obviously the decision worked, but the JV dilemma that Leyland has does not concern Justin Verlander. No, the early season JV question is with Jose Valverde. I believe had Valverde gotten off to a good start, Leyland would have put him in last night, but that is not the case. Papa Grande has never been an easy watch, but thus far the Tigers closer has an earned run average of 5.79 with a WHIP of 1.71. These are not good numbers and I believe Leyland has a well deserved trust issue with him and if he doesn’t he should.
If Valverde continues to struggle I would love to see Octavio Dotel get a chance to occasionally close games. I know closing is a different animal but he has been practically flawless this season with six strikeouts and no walks in his 3 innings of work. We know Papa Grande would not equal his amazing 2011 season, but the Tigers need more from him than he has given him so far. I believe in the long run he will be fine, but for the time being the JV question has nothing to do with number 35 and everything to do with number 46.