Watching the Detroit Tigers lately has been fun for so many reasons. They have great starting pitching, their hitting is phenomenal and they finally seem to be getting hot. However, one thing is holding them back from being great: their bullpen.
One player in particular is the main culprit for poor bullpen pitching. Jose Valverde was released at the end of the 2012 season from the Tigers because of his poor season in which the close had a 3.78 ERA and five blown saves in the regular season and one crucial blown save in the playoffs. In fact, his ERA in the 2012 postseason was a baffling 30.38 in four appearances.
Yes, Valverde was long gone and many fans were rejoicing. However, after a failed early-season attempt to promote young flamethrower Bruce Rondon to the team’s full-time closer, they sent him down to the AAA team, the Toledo Mud Hens, and re-signed Valverde.
“Papa Grande” as he is known by Detroit fans, was brought back to be the closer despite the resentment of the veteran by fans who were sick of his unreliable ways.
Things started out well for the 35-year-old, allowing just one earned run in his first 12.2 innings pitched, posting a season ERA of just 0.75 with six saves. Maybe he had changed? Maybe he really is meant to be the closer of this team and this second chance is proving that?
In the eight appearances since his sparkling start, he has given up 11 earned runs and has blown two saves — looking like anything but the solid closer Detroit needs to reach the top. In fact, he has allowed at least one baserunner in seven of his last eight appearances — very un-closer-like.
Today was another example of his poor play against the Baltimore Orioles. He gave up two singles, a double and a home run in his first 10 pitches in the ninth inning. By allowing four earned runs, he saw his ERA balloon to 5.59 for the season. It looks like he has played his last games in Detroit.
Is it time for the “Papa Grande,” translated to the “Big Potato,” to be out of a job in Detroit. Yes. Simple answer, but absolutely.
He has worn out his welcome in this town and, honestly, a big potato may serve more purpose to this team than Valverde.