Blog update: Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before Game 2 that Valverde will not close on Sunday, but that he still considers Valverde the team's closer. "Jose Valverde is going to be a very important part of this postseason," Leyland said.
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The Detroit Tigers' 6-4 victory in 12 innings on Saturday night silenced some of the outrage that manager Jim Leyland would have faced and Derek Jeter's broken ankle pushed the controversy further down on the list of stories that came from Game 1 of the ALCS.
Still, there's a huge issue facing Tigers manager Jim Leyland as his Detroit squad comes back for Sunday afternoon Game 2 against the New York Yankees: Can closer Jose Valverde be trusted in any high-leverage situation — let alone a closing opportunity — the rest of the postseason?
That chorus of yowling "no!'s" you hear is coming from Motown because to say there's a problem with Valverde right now would be an understatement. The Big Potato surrendered two-run homers to both Ichiro and Raul Ibanez to blow a four-run ninth inning lead in Game 1. Couple that with his three-run meltdown against Oakland in ALDS Game 4 and Valverde has now given up the last seven runs surrendered by Tigers pitching over a span of 24 innings.
Leyland acknowledged that Valverde currently isn't right and even admitted he didn't like what he saw when Valverde was on the mound (though why he didn't yank him immediately for Octavio Dotel is a question that remained unanswered).
Here's the first question that Leyland fielded in the postgame press conference (via ASAP Sports):
Q. We have to wade into the Valverde crisis pretty seriously. Were you close to pulling him at any point in the ninth? Can you trust him frankly in the closer role the remainder of the series?
Leyland promised an answer on Valverde by the time he holds his pregame press conference on Sunday. While he didn't necessarily guarantee an action, it seems likely he's going to do something. The Tigers already-taxed bullpen isn't exactly overfilling with closer candidates, but Jon Morosi of Fox Sports makes his case for Octavio Dotel here. And why not? At this point, he certainly can't do any worse than a closer who has exhausted his supply of trust over the span of two appearances.
Should Leyland go with Dotel as closer? Or maybe someone else? Let us know.
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