Jose Valverde has had a long, rugged history with the Detroit Tigers. While it might not be a long history on paper–he’s only pitched in Detroit for three seasons–it seems much longer to Tigers fans.
The bullpen has barely been mediocre this season, being one of the worst bullpens in the league. Things got so bad that the Tigers had to send Brayan Villarreal down already, who had an ERA over 20 in more than enough appearances.
Detroit also had a need for closer, which got worse when the group of closers that rotated in the role couldn’t hold a lead. Yes, there was no doubt that Detroit was in for a long season with such an unimpressive bullpen. Sure, there are a few bright spots like Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly.
Three guys can’t hold a bullpen together, however, as there are also three guys on the pitching staff with an 11+ ERA. Two of those guys are now on the minor league squad, while Rick Porcello somehow still starts.
Back to the real story.
Valverde hasn’t pitched in a game since October of last season, finishing the playoffs with an ERA over 30 in four appearances. This may not seem like a fair judgement since he only pitched 2.2 innings, but the closer from 2012 needed a wake-up call. He got that in the offseason when the Tigers released him and tried to rely upon a youngster making his way through the farm system, Bruce Rondon.
Rondon didn’t quite work out during spring training, however, and the organization decided he wasn’t ready for the big leagues.
Then, Detroit decided to do a closer by committee with about three different guys testing it out. This didn’t quite pan out either as they were spotty as a group and relatively unreliable with no closing experience.
Here we are, about 20 games into the season and the Tigers made a move. They signed Valverde to a minor-league contract just weeks ago and then brought him up to join the team on Wednesday.
Not many people thought they would see the day that Papa Grande rejoined the team and was given his old job of closer back, but they saw just that. He pitched a one-two-three ninth inning and earned his first save since Oct. 6, 2012.
Welcome back, Papa Grande. Welcome back.