DETROIT (97.1 The Ticket) During a media conference call Monday, Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland answered a hot button question from the New York Post.
Who’s his closer?
Usual closer Jose Valverde was benched Sunday to work on slowing his delivery after giving up four ninth-inning runs in the first game of the series. But Leyland still has faith in his ability.
“I’m going to just play it out and see what happens, see what kind of match-up there is, but I do think, I still consider Valverde the closer, it’s just a matter of having a conversation with him tomorrow … see how he’s feeling,” Leyland said, adding, “We’ll just see how the game plays out and go from there, I certainly, other than Valverde, still the closer for the most part, I still don’t really have another set closer, I used Phil Coke last night, depending on who they got coming up, depending on what the match-up would be, I’ll go from there.
“I’m hoping Valverde in the very near future will be ready to take it back over because it’s pretty important that we have him.”
The Tigers came out strong in the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the new York Yankees, with game three coming up Tuesday night. The Tigers lead the best-of-seven game series two games to none.
The Yankees bats have been cold this series, and Leyland said the Tigers are hoping to keep them in a slump.
“You know the Yankees are going to break out here at some point, that’s just a matter of fact,” the coach said. “During the season I always talk about ‘it’s not so much who you’re playing as when you’re playing them.’ We’re just hoping we can keep the Yankees from swinging the bats too good in the next few days.”
From a broader perspective on Valverde’s situation,Leyland pointed out many closers have struggled in post-season ninth innings.
“The thing that always been misleading about a closer is everybody talks about a closer comes in, he gives up three lines drives, they’re all caught,” Leyland said. “The next day he comes in, he gives up two bloopers and a base hit, they say well, the one day he did a great job, the next day the bloopers beat him so he did a terrible job. So I think you’ve just got to weigh a lot of things.
“I just think there’s certainly a lot of pressure … There are some times during the season when somebody is beaten down a little bit and it doesn’t mean they’re not trying hard because they are … It’s amazing, but you’re right, several of the closers have struggled.”
As for Monday, Leyland said the team was relaxing and looking forward to Tuesday.
“We’re just kind of relaxing, finally getting the day off, you know we’ve had some tough travel lately,” Leyland said. “We know what’s in front of us yet, you don’t think about stuff that’s behind you, you think about what’s in front of you … It’s not going to be easy. We’re just really thinking about tomorrow’s game, but today everybody a little bit tired, today we’re just kind of hanging out, taking it easy.”