LAKELAND, Fla. —- Just one more chance!
As the sun disappeared underneath the western sky and the November night got darker, the 2012 baseball season came to a chilling finish for the Detroit Tigers and for relief pitcher Jose Valverde.
The Tigers lost the 2012 World Series to the San Francisco Giants in four games and the question about Valverde future in Detroit seemed to be as bleak as the Michigan winter.
The sweep by the Giants against the Tigers happen because there were a lot of other elements of the game that the Tigers just did not execute and that Valverde lack of a performance is not the only reason that the Tigers lost.
Valverde once was a sure thing when he arrived on top of the mound after Detroit Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland made the long walk from the dugout to the middle of Comerica Park. Leyland called upon his ace and placed the baseball in Valverde hand the win and the save was confidently in the grasp of the Tigers and Valverde.
In the 2011 season, Valverde was perfect in save situations he recorded 51 saves for the Tigers.
It seemed that it happened quickly for Valverde, in a span of one season, his fastball lost its velocity but most important Valverde lost his command and his confidence.
The more he struggled in front of the baseball fans in the city of Detroit and it just seemed that the whole world watched Valverde spin out of control.
So over the winter in his home in the Dominican Republic, as a free agent, Valverde waited by his phone for a phone call from another major league team-nobody called.
He watched the television waiting to hear any news. He would read the papers about the Tigers’ misfortune of not to be able to find a quality closer that could come into a game and show the world that the Tigers would be a combative baseball team and ready to pounce on the American League and make another appearance in the 2013 World Series.
Finally, when time had run its course and the final straw was ready to break, a phone call came and the on the other end of the line, a voice that Valverde knew and somebody that knew Valverde with an offer-a chance.
The Detroit Tigers found Valverde and tendered a minor league contract to him, with no guarantee that Valverde would get a chance to show that he is a pitcher that is ready to make a statement.
He showed up at the baseball complex located in Lakeland, Florida and is the home of the Detroit Tigers for one more chance to dance out of the bullpen.
For Valverde, it is a golden opportunity for the pitcher known by all in the city of Detroit and the baseball fans of the world as Papa Grande to show that he can give what the Tigers are looking for in a closer-strikeouts and saves.
Valverde first appearance of the comeback, he looked like the old Valverde, he struck out four, gave up no hits and no runs. He faced a Canadian All-Star team in Orlando, Florida.
“He is throwing in another extended spring game Wednesday,” Detroit Tiger President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski said. “If things go well he will pitch Friday and Saturday back-to-back with the Lakeland club.”
“They say he is throwing the ball well, around the strike zone and his velocity has been good,” Detroit Tiger Director of Player Development Dave Owens said. “And the split has been coming out of his hand nicely. It’s early in the process but so far so good.”
The road to big leagues will be a twisty route for Valverde and which includes a possible trip to the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers a chance to wear a Toledo Mud Hen uniform before he put back on the old English D uniform and if he makes the comeback a success.
If the comeback is a success for Valverde and for Dombrowski then there will be smiles all around and there will be plenty of dancing in the street and a prayer of thanks by Valverde.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.