Valverde came out of the bullpen Wednesday night to pitch in his first game back with the Tigers and closed out a 7-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals. "I was impressed that he threw the ball that well," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "He made limited (minor league) appearances and had no spring training." Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, "It's only one game so I'm not going to get carried away. But I thought he pitched good." It was quite a turnaround from his three 2012 postseason appearances, in which he was drilled so bad the club abandoned him as its closer. Those three games, on the heels of a season in which his stuff declined, contributed to the decision to let Valverde depart as a free agent. He was signed to a minor league deal two games into this season and, after some extended spring training work plus a handful of games with Class A Lakeland, the Tigers decided to bring him back to Detroit. The 35-year-old veteran had his contract purchased Tuesday. Valverde showed the Royals one fastball at 95 mph, with the rest at 92-94 (a little faster than last year), but he didn't use his split-finger because of the cold. He worked a 1-2-3 ninth that included no strikeouts and two fly balls to left, the second near the fence. A smattering of boos turned to cheers when those who remained of the 30,347 fans realized who was coming on for the save opportunity. "When he's on your side, you love it," said Matt Tuiasosopo, a new Tiger who had seen the Valverde show only one time, as a member of the Seattle Mariners. "I met him for the first time. I'd heard nothing but good things about him as a teammate. "When he's on the other side, it's different. I love to see him fired up."
Max Scherzer (2-0) struggled with the cold -- 41 degrees at game time -- and his control, but he lasted five innings and picked up the victory. Al Alburquerque didn't allow a run in 1 2/3 innings, and Joaquin Benoit returned to his familiar setup role and contributed 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief. A run-allowing error by Royals third baseman Alex Gordon with runners on first and second in the fourth led to four unearned runs as the Tigers took a 7-4 lead. Miguel Cabrera's sacrifice fly broke a 4-4 tie. Victor Martinez had a sharp RBI single to left-center, and Jhonny Peralta walked with the bases loaded to make it 7-4. Royals starter Wade Davis (2-1) couldn't get past the costly error, and reliever Luis Mendoza walked the first two batters he faced, including a run-scoring free pass to Peralta. Davis allowed seven runs (three earned) on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings. "He had trouble getting the ball down consistently," Yost said, "and that got his pitch count up. When it's cold, it's tough to pitch." Omar Infante had three hits for Detroit, and Cabrera, Martinez and Peralta had two apiece. For Kansas City, Eric Hosmer went 1-for-1 with two RBI and two walks. The Royals loaded the bases against Scherzer with nobody out in the fifth and got one run out of it, on a bases-loaded walk to Hosmer. "Bases loaded and only one run out of it," Yost said. "We had our chances." NOTES: Mendoza was in the bullpen to back up Davis because his start scheduled for Wednesday was washed out by Tuesday's rain. He is expected to return to the rotation Monday against Cleveland in Kansas City. ... LHP Duane Below was designated for assignment Wednesday by Detroit to make room on the 40-man roster for Valverde. If Below is not traded or claimed off waivers in 10 days, the Tigers would ask him to report to Triple-A Toledo, an assignment he could refuse. ... Royals 3B Mike Moustakas, caught in a 2-for-19 slump entering Wednesday, took a heavy dose of extra batting practice to get back on track. ... Valverde said he had offers from the New York Yankees and Mets in the offseason but that neither was to his liking. ... Kansas City was 5-13 against Detroit last season, only 1-8 at Comerica Park.
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