After Valverde Stumbles, Coke Closes For Tigers
RONALD BLUM,AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Jose Valverde didn’t finish Game 2 of the AL championship series for the Detroit Tigers but retains his closer’s role for now.
“I guess that sounds like I am mud watching, but I am really not,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We will do some work with him.”
Valverde allowed a tying two-run double to Oakland’s Seth Smith on Wednesday in Game 4 of the AL division series as Detroit lost 4-3, then gave up two-run homers in the ninth inning to the Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez in Saturday’s ALCS opener. Detroit rebounded to win 6-4 in 12 innings.
Left-hander Phil Coke, who had just one save in each of the last two regular seasons, got the final six outs and allowed only one hit in the Tigers’ 3-0 win Sunday.
“It’s a tough game. You’ve got to be able to step up when called upon, and luckily I was able to do that,” said Coke, acquired by Detroit from the Yankees following the 2009 season.
After converting all 49 save chances during the 2011 regular season, Valverde was 35 for 40 this year. Leyland and pitching coach Jeff Jones were examining 34-year-old right-hander’s delivery at 3 a.m.
“It is way too slow. The tempo is not good at all,” Leyland said. “I don’t even know if I am right about it, I probably shouldn’t say it, but I will say it anyway, it almost appears to me that it looks like he is kind of waiting for something bad to happen. And I don’t know if I am accurate on that, I may be totally wrong. But sometimes when you read a player, you can see that he’s not quite as confident. And he is normally very confident. But I think there is something to this mechanical part of that. I definitely think that.”
He said before the game he planned to make his decision based on matchups.
“I cannot give you one name. I have a suggestion box down by my office,” Leyland said. “The last three outs are very tough to get, and it takes a special cat in a lot of cases to do that.”
New York’s batting order caused him to pick Coke.
“Today it went fine because we were really, really lucky to be honest with you,” Leyland said. “Things fell in place.”
Coke assumes closing will not become a regular task. He expects to see Valverde pitching in the ninth inning soon.
“I think he absolutely has the ability to get back on track really quickly because, number one, he’s a closer. That’s what closers do,” Coke said. “They have a bad game. They get it figured out, and they go back out there and do their job.”
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