By Ashley Dunkak
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland understands fans’ frustration with the bullpen, particularly with closer Jose Valverde.
He knows better than anyone that Valverde has allowed 10 hits, seven runs and five homers over his last six outings.
Leyland knows. Everybody knows. Leyland had inferred earlier that he continued pitching Valverde because he had no other option to close games, but in a recent rant Leyland erased any doubt.
“Some fans believe Valverde is a Leyland creation,” Leyland says. “They think the manager loves him or he wouldn’t be here. I don’t understand who they think we should be closing with. I’m asking that question, ‘Who the (expletive) should I be closing with?’ I mean, do they want some rookie kid? I don’t understand that.
“Who the (expletive) should I close with? Who do you want me to close with? Who the (expletive) do you want to be the closer? … I don’t know what the (expletive) these people want. They just throw stuff out there. People just talk, they don’t think about it.
“Sometimes it boggles my mind.”
In Valverde’s first 12 outings, he gave up just three hits and one run, but since a massive meltdown May 31, things have gone downhill quickly. In that game he allowed two homers and four runs total in two-thirds of an inning. Valverde’s collapse turned a 5-3 Tigers lead into a 7-5 comeback victory for the Baltimore Orioles.
Valverde did not let a man on base in his next performance, June 6, but the next day he gave up two home runs to the Cleveland Indians and turned a non-save situation into a dire predicament.
June 11 against the Kansas City Royals, Valverde allowed a single, and the batter stole to second. Trying to protect a 3-2 lead with a man in scoring position and slugger Billy Butler at the plate, Valverde caught a break with a timely (and widely acknowledged as incorrect) strike call for a strikeout of Butler.
Most recently, of course, was the failure in the final game of the series against the Royals. Eric Hosmer stole second, and Lorenzo Cain belted a two-run homer to give Kansas City the win and the series.