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Through his first five appearances (scoreless, three saves), Papa Grande was a familiar boon for a tormented Detroit Tigers bullpen. He allowed his first run on Sunday, which happened to come when he had only a one-run lead. His first stumble in four closing chances on the year resulted from two walks and an RBI single.
League: not best RP in town
Reports said Valverde's splitter was much improved during his spring workouts; this justifiably caused renewed optimism that the righty's approach would improve. According to Brooks Baseball, however, he has thrown the pitch just six times of his 92 offerings. The other 86 encompass his four-seam fastball, which has so far lost almost 1 mph from last year's average.
Luckily, Orel Hershiser of ESPN gave Valverde positive fastball reviews recently, specifically his ability to throw it low and away for strikes. Valverde said he hasn't eliminated his other chief pitch; his sparse deployment might stem from the colder weather or the fact he's still trying to round into form. He's using a new windup, as well, so that might be delaying his comfort.
For various reasons, it's rash to give up on him so soon, despite his troubling allowance of line drives and dips in strikeout peripherals. He's done the job more often than not so far, and that's enough for Jim Leyland and upper management to let Valverde progress.
He's hardly cemented, obviously. If his performance starts to crumble, Benoit and, in the long term, Rondon (if he proves his minors dominance is only a stepping stone to big-league growth) await. Don't expect Valverde to lose out to them if his dipper begins to translate, though.
"Yeah, for now he is. I hate to say it like that. But yeah, for now." Talk about a ringing endorsement for Brandon League's closer status by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, right? League hasn't helped his cause, having given up at least one run in eight of his last 11 outings. His latest gaffe came on Sunday. Entering the ninth with a four-run lead, he allowed two singles and a two-RBI double before escaping. You can't create your own save sitch, Brandon.
Sound performances from Kenley Jansen and Paco Rodriguez, however, might actually delay a change. Skip doesn't want to hold off on using his best pitcher(s) for a save spot because he'd rather use them to work out of jams and get them there. He doesn't seem married to the idea of using a team's best RP to hog this statistic.
Though a change might not come in the immediate future, Jansen shouldn't be a free agent in any eligible league, and Rodriguez looks like an increasingly steady NL-only weapon.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell says they hope they'll get Andrew Bailey (biceps) back in the closer role sometime in the next five to seven days. He may have one or two rehab stops; he was scheduled to throw a 'pen session Tuesday.
Even if the incumbent returns without issue, fill-in Junichi Tazawa will remain a sound deep-league hold for the rest of the year. He's the main handcuff to brittle Bailey after Joel Hanrahan opted for season-ending surgery to patch up the flexor tendon that protects the ulnar collateral ligament on his right elbow. Dr. James Andrews will perform the procedure and could tack on Tommy John surgery if deemed necessary.
Much more to discuss in "Mound meetings," man
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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