By: Jeff Riger
Word came down around 5:30 Tuesday afternoon that former Detroit closer Jose Valverde was joining the team again. It started with one national report and then a couple more came out and it seemed like a foregone conclusion, Papa Grande was back! The Tigers however refused to make a statement. Reporters asked GM Dave Dombrowski about the multiple reports and Dombrowski deferred to the media relations department who stated that there was no announcement to be made.
Well things changed…
The Tigers game with the Royals was rained out but there was still media availability in the Skippers office. Usually when a game is postponed, the media goes home and nobody talks until to the next day. When the announcement was made that reporters should head downstairs it became apparent that Valverde’s return would be made official.
As we walked into Jim Leyland’s office, Dombrowski stood in the corner waiting for everybody to gather and then spoke saying “we have optioned the contract of Brayan Villarreal to Toledo and tomorrow we are going to purchase the contract of Jose Valverde.” It was in that instance that flashes of post season blown saves started dancing in my head. I never thought Valverde would be back at the major League level. Even when the Tigers gave him a minor league contract, I figured it was just a way to appease Valverde’s agent Scott Boras so other teams could look at him. But, apparently I was mistaken!
Dombrowski spoke about Valverde for about 7 minutes followed by Leyland. It was very apparent after listening to both men that the Tigers organization loves Jose Valverde and it seems like they will give him every chance to succeed.
Below are some of the more interesting quotes from both Dombrowski and Leyland.
Dombrowski was asked why Valverde would not start at Toledo?
“First of all we think he is ready to pitch here and secondly we don’t need him to go to Toledo when you look at his stuff we know he can do the job here. He’s done it before with his type of stuff; he’s well prepared to be able to do that. We feel he can help us now and helps Jim set up his bullpen.”
I asked Dombrowski if he was surprised that Valverde was joining the team this quick?
“Yes, there is a part of me, yes! Last year when we did not sign him back we really expressed our opinion that from a stuff perspective, it was not just the post season it was really during the year, we saw his stuff down. It is not like that now. He is back throwing like a couple years ago.” Valverde is back to throwing his splitter, a pitch that disappeared for the majority of last season. The velocity of Valverde’s fastball has also returned. Dombrowski did not know why Valverde looked so much better but he does.
I asked Leyland if the situation called for it would Valverde close on Wednesday evening against the Royals and he said “he would.”
Leyland then went on talking about the benefits of a guy like Valverde saying “he’s done it before and we know that he is not afraid.”
Leyland also made sure the media was aware that it will be nice to write Valerde’s name on the lineup card and that he hoped that the Tigers had the lead tomorrow so he could throw him out there in the 9th and see what happened.
The manager also is happy to have Valverde back because it makes his pen that much better. From day one Leyland agreed to manage “closer by committee” but he never hid the fact that he wanted a closer and now he has one. The only question now is which closer is he getting? The one from last season or the one from 2011? We should all find out very quickly.
Watch the Leyland and Dombrowski videos below for the entire story about the return of Jose Valverde. From how the splitter looks now to Papa having lost 15 pounds in the last couple months, all the information is there.