RONALD BLUM,AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jose Valverde hopes to speed his way back into the closer role for the Detroit Tigers during the World Series.
After reviewing video of his meltdown against the New York Yankees in the AL championship series opener, Valverde concluded his lower body mechanics were off.
“It’s my legs. My legs were a little slow,” he said Tuesday. “Now I have the same rhythm I had before.”
Valverde had a 3.78 ERA and 35 saves in 40 chances this season, down from a 2.24 ERA and 49 saves in 49 opportunities last year.
He allowed a tying two-run double to Oakland’s Seth Smith in Game 4 of the AL division series as Detroit lost 4-3, then wasted a 4-0 lead against the Yankees when he gave up two-run homers to Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. Detroit rebounded to win 6-4 in 12 innings and went on to sweep New York.
“The last time I pitched in New York my split was flat,” Valverde said. “Now so far everything is perfect.”
Valverde worked with pitching coach Jeff Jones and Tigers manager Jim Leyland in bullpen sessions to get his mechanics back in whack.
Lefty Phil Coke earned saves in Games 2 and 3 against the Yankees, brought in against a team with powerful left-handed hitters. Leyland wasn’t revealing his plans against the Giants, who figure to start four straight left-handed hitters at the bottom of their batting order in the opener against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. San Francisco’s top five probably will include three righties and a pair of switch hitters in Angel Pagan and Pedro Sandoval.
“Just going to play it by ear, see what happens,” Leyland said. “I don’t really have any definite information on that yet. We’ll just see how the game plays out, who’s coming up. Like I always say, I hope we have that to worry about. If we do, we’ll come up with somebody.”
Valverde says any role is OK.
“Leyland knows what he’s doing. He’s been doing it for a long time,” the reliever said. “If he wants to put me in in the eighth, in the seventh, I’ll be there to support my team.”
THE BEARD IS CLEAR: Injured Giants closer Brian Wilson is getting almost as much television time now than he was in 2010, when he saved six of San Francisco’s 11 postseason wins.
With his long, scruffy beard, resembling a billy goat, Wilson has been seen dancing in the dugout to celebrates rallies during the playoffs. The video gets replayed on the Internet.
“I can’t control what the camera is doing,” Wilson said. “Nowadays, social media is humongous. You can’t even breathe without getting on camera. It’s fine. We’re having good fun.”
Wilson had ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow April 19. He says he relishes his role as cheerleader-elder statesman.
“I don’t look at myself as a selfish, like, oh, man, really would love to,” he said. “Yeah, I’d like to participate, but I am participating. Physically, it does not matter whether I’m throwing a pitch or not. I have a role to do. I’ve been in this organization for nine years. It’s almost a decade, so I have sort of allegiance and responsibility to maintain a good leadership role and be a good teammate, pick some guys up when you need it or tell certain guys who haven’t been there before what pressure really is, what fear isn’t.”
His message to his teammates?
“If you really aspire for something, you have to taste it, breathe it, smell it, you just have to focus all your energy on attaining that.”
MELKY VS. MOTA: Giants manager Bruce Bochy reiterated San Francisco will not add All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera to the World Series roster following the end of his 50-game drug suspension — a decision the team made Sept. 27.
Reliever Guillermo Mota has been part of the team’s postseason roster following his 100-game suspension for a second violation for a positive test. Bochy didn’t plan to announce his World Series roster until Wednesday.
Cabrera was suspended Aug. 15 for 50 games after testing positive for testosterone, and the ban ended with the completion of the division series. The Giants activated Mota on Aug. 28 after he came off the restricted list.
Mota tested positive for Clenbuterol, which he said was in children’s cough syrup. His first suspension came in November 2006 when he was with the New York Mets. Mota became just the third major league player disciplined twice for positive drug tests.
“I think they’re two different situations really,” Bochy said. “I mean, one happened during the season with Mota, and he was available to help us out during the season. So we made a spot there for him. Now, with Melky, we felt when that happened, as far as losing him, the club played very well, and the guys that we had been putting out there have done the job. They’ve earned this, and this is the way we’re going to move forward.”
IN ORDER: Madison Bumgarner will pitch Game 2 of the World Series for San Francisco on Thursday, giving the Giants back-to-back lefties after Barry Zito goes in the opener.
Righty Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Game 3 on Saturday at Detroit and ace Matt Cain will go in Game 4. Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum will remain in the bullpen, providing options.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy could have flip-flopped, starting Cain on full rest in Game 3.
“Well, I like the way Vogelsong is throwing, too,” Bochy said. “He’s throwing the ball as well as anybody on the staff, so we just kept it in order. If Vogelsong gets the last start, we have no problem with that. I know Matt has worked hard, he’s got a lot of innings. I didn’t think we needed to flip-flop the two, to be honest.”
VENEZUELAN REUNION: Miguel Cabrera heard about Pablo Sandoval long before the Kung Fu Panda became a San Francisco sensation as a major league third baseman with the Giants.
Cabrera played for a few years as a teammate with Sandoval’s older brother, Michael, back home in Venezuela. Michael would often brag about his younger brother’s exploits.
“He always told me his little brother would be good, and he’s right,” Cabrera said. “It’s very exciting to see.”
Sandoval remembered watching Cabrera back home and marveled at his talent.
“That’s a great hitter,” he recalled of his first impression. “The first time I saw him play he was so big to be a shortstop. My brother told me they’d move him some day to third base because he has a bat but he was too big to be a shortstop.”
Now Cabrera and Sandoval are two of at least nine Venezuelans playing in this year’s World Series along with San Francisco’s Marco Scutaro, Gregor Blanco, Hector Sanchez and Jose Mijares; and Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and Avisail Garcia.
“I have a good relationship with all those guys,” Cabrera said. “It will be exciting to play against them. It will be extra motivation.”
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Josh Dubow contributed to this report.
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