The Detroit Tigers announced that they have resigned 35-year old reliever Jose Valverde to a minor league contract Thursday. Valverde will get the once-over at the Tigers’ spring training facility in Lakeland, FLa, and will then make his way to join Triple-A Toledo.
Detroit still has no definite plan to promote Valverde to the big club.
Valverde had been a reliable closer for the Tigers over the last three seasons, converting 110 of 118 save opportunities, including 49-of-49 save opportunities in 2011. His disconnection with Tigers management began when he blew five saves last season and completely dissolved in the playoffs before Phil Coke took his place. Coke converted two save opportunities in the ALCS to propel Detroit to the World Series.
Even after a rough 2012, Valverde tried to test the free agent market and Detroit was prepared to replace him with youngster Bruce Rondon. However, Rondon was demoted to Triple-A during Opening Day roster deliberations.
Valverde is in a class of only three closers to complete at least 30 save opportunities without blowing a save. Eric Gagne and Brad Lidge were 55-55 in 2003 and 41-41 in 2008 respectively.
It’s still unknown whether the veteran will be called up to the major league roster anytime soon, but if he can return to 2011 form, Detroit won’t have any other choice. After 10 years of closing, Valverde has 277 career saves with the Tigers, Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks.
John Engel is a Pac-12 college basketball writer for Rant Sports and also works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in Los Angeles. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.