By Ashley Dunkak

COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – It just keeps getting worse for Detroit Tigers reliever Jose Valverde.

He entered Wednesday’s game with the Tigers trailing the Baltimore Orioles 9-3. Detroit starter Rick Porcello had given up six runs in the fourth inning, essentially putting the game out of reach. It should have been a fairly low-pressure situation for a reliever, even one whose job is perceived to be in jeopardy.

Valverde proceeded to give up two singles, a two-RBI double and a home run. The deficit went from six runs to 10 runs. The fans that had not already left Comerica Park jeered and booed.

“He threw one good split and a bunch of them that weren’t too good,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “It was obviously not a very good outing for him. You give him a little bit of a reprieve because there’s not much adrenaline, probably, in that situation, but he definitely needed to pitch. It didn’t work out too good for him today.”

Leyland said after the game that Valverde appeared to be pushing the splitter, although Leyland did not know why that was happening. The manager said the Valverde should get a bit of room for error just because he usually pitches in much more intense situations, but he said that circumstance did not account for everything.

“I don’t want to come off like I’m making excuses for him, because I’m not,” Leyland said. “He’s got to come out and get in good innings of work. He got some work, but obviously it wasn’t real good work.”

Valverde has been enduring an awful slump since May 31, when he allowed two home runs in two-thirds of an inning in a 7-5 road loss to the Orioles. From the game through June 19, a span that includes his last eight appearances, Valverde’s ERA is 13.50, and batters are hitting .405 against him. He allowed 11 runs on 15 hits – including six homers – in those eight outings.

What is puzzling, though, is that Valverde’s statistics were great through his first 12 appearances this season. Through May 27, his ERA was 0.75, and hitters were batting .077 against him. He had given up just three hits – zero homers – and a single run in those first 12 outings.

Whatever changed for him in that time, it looks like he may be packing his bags soon.

Leyland spoke about Valverde on 97.1 The Ticket Wednesday morning, saying that while the team did not have a dominant closer, he did not think it was time to get rid of Valverde. He said he wanted more chances to evaluate whether Valverde could still do the job.

If Leyland came to a conclusion today, he was not revealing it.

“Number one, I don’t make that decision,” Leyland said. “That would be a decision that Dave and myself and the coaches would make, but I’m not going to panic after coming into a game that’s 9-3, whatever it was. I think we just wait and see. I don’t think that’s something that we need to talk about today.”

One thing is certain: Leyland may not want to talk about Valverde’s future after that outing, but everybody else will.


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