DETROIT —- There was some mist in the air, Wednesday afternoon, April 24, 2013 and some of the precipitation fell to the ground and some gathered around the tear ducts.
Jose Valverde waited patiently in the Detroit Tigers bullpen for the call.
Under the damp gray sky and the cool temperature, the Detroit Tigers defeated the Kansas City Royals, 7-5 and Valverde earned his first save of the season and preserved the second win of the season for starting Tiger pitcher Max Scherzer.
Finally, breaking the silence in the bullpen, the phone started to ring and the bullpen coach reached for and answered the phone and then he looked toward Valverde and gave him the nod.
Valverde reached for his bottle water and took a long swig and swished it around and then like a spigot the warm water was expelled.
He picked up the rosin bag and then the ball and he began to softly toss the ball to the catcher and with a big sigh and a small quick move with his sleeve to wipe away the moister from his eyes.
“He’s a great teammate, one of the best that I’ve been around,” Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said before Valverde debut. “It’ll be nice to write his name on the lineup card. I can tell you that, it reads better than it did before.”
The bullpen gate opened up and Valverde stepped out on the left field warning track dirt and onto his comeback bid.
The ninth inning and for Valverde all he has to do is get three outs to preserve the win for the Detroit Tigers over the Kansas City Royals- a job that he knows well.
Valverde got the first out of the inning when he got the Royals left fielder Alex Gordon to lift a 3-2 fastball into the damp air that was caught by Andy Dirks for the out. The second out by the Royals was made by Alcides Escobar when he rolled a ground ball to second base and to Omar Infante.
The drama of the ninth inning continues in Valverde fashion, Billy Butler swung his bat and lifted a high fly ball that looked like it had caught the jet stream of Comerica Park but suddenly the ball got wet and heavy and started to fall short of the stands and into the waiting glove of Dirks for the final out and the win.
After the out was recorded and before the cheers subsided, the first person to greet Valverde in the infield was Leyland who led the line with a great-big hug, shake of his hand and pat on the back. There was wetness around from both Leyland and Valverde eyes that was disguised by the rain falling from the sky.
“This wasn’t a first day,” Valverde said. “I just missed a couple of weeks of weather like this.”
During Valverde extended stay at the Tigers’ spring training complex in Lakeland, Florida, the Tigers scout were impressed by his movement of the fastball. The scouts all so liked Valverde ability to throw the splitter. His command of the splitter made him look like the old Valverde that save 51 games in a row in 2011 season
He did not throw a splitter to the Royals instead he threw 18 fastballs and 11 were good for strikes.
“I’d like to see one of you throw a splitter on a day like this,” Valverde said with a smile. “Tomorrow, maybe I’ll throw a split or two, but today I had my cutter and my sinker.”
Is he back?
Only time will tell and the unfolding of the rest of the season, Detroit Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski said after Valverde accepted the contract, he is happy to have Valverde back in the bullpen and with the Tigers.
“We love Papa Grande as a person and what he’s done for our organization,” Dombrowski said.
One game, one outing does not make a season, what it does do is replace the gray sky of doubt with the sunny sky of hope.
For all of the members of the Detroit Tigers and for the fans that follow the Tigers, they are hoping the with the signing of Valverde there will be warmer days ahead that will lead to cooler fall nights of the 2013 World Series and the championship of major league baseball.
Like the rain that seems to be falling throughout the month of April in Detroit this spring, a championship banner being raised next season and for sure there will be plenty of tears of joy falling from the eyes of Tigers fans around the world.
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.