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Jim Leyland on Tigers’ closer situation: “Just going to play it by ear, see what happens”

Oct 24, 2012, 10:15 AM EDT

Jose Valverde AP

After pitching in a simulated game over the weekend Jose Valverde told reporters that he corrected a mechanical flaw responsible for his postseason struggles, but when asked if Valverde will resume closing in the World Series manager Jim Leyland was non-committal.

Leyland used the same phrasing he repeatedly uttered during the ALCS, saying the Tigers are “just going to play it by ear, see what happens” in the ninth inning, leading Jason Beck of MLB.com to conclude that it will be closer-by-committee based on matchups.

Left-hander Phil Coke emerged as the Tigers’ closer during the ALCS, finishing the final three games of the series, but the Yankees’ lineup being filled with left-handed hitters played a big role in that and the only lefty bats in the Giants’ lineup are Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, and Brandon Crawford.

In other words, if Leyland truly manages the ninth inning based on matchups Coke is unlikely to be the top choice. If instead Leyland has completely soured on Valverde and now trusts Coke to get the final three outs the Giants’ right-handed hitters will have some favorable matchups with the game on the line late. Righties hit .396 off Coke during the regular season, so even if Valverde remains out of the mix–he hasn’t pitched since October 13–Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel could play a big role.

  1. historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    I expect that Leyland will use a combination of people as appropriate — and hopefully keep them all on a short leash.

    • polegojim - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      Exactly H. That’s all we fans ask… use the hook quickly and don’t give away a game based on ‘blind loyalty’, as he almost did in New York.

      We get that Valverde and Benoit have been valuable during the season and past playoffs, but it shouldn’t cost the Tigers the World Series trying to prove it. If they don’t have their best stuff to shut down the Giants, have the balls to admit it and pitch whoever does.

      Loyalty rests not only with those two pitchers, but with the entire team who are OWED the best possible managing strategy to win the Title.

  2. Detroit Michael - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    I’m not sure why Leyland didn’t use Alburquerque during the Yankees series. He already pitched once since the ball-kissing nonsense, so that wasn’t it. Seems to me he was pretty effective lately.

  3. historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    There’s a part of me that really hopes that Valverde pitches some great stuff during the series and gets to tell us all (me included) to kiss his ass.

  4. fusionix7 - Oct 24, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Hopefully the starting pitching replicates what it did in the NY series so the Tigers don’t have to see what the full compliment of the bullpen has to offer. Outside of Dotel and Coke there isn’t another guy in the bullpen where a fan can say, okay, he’s got this.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM

      Oh, I like that Smyly kid a lot, and I think Albuquerque is better than Dotel (or at least as good). It’s a mistake to put too much faith in Coke.

  5. IdahoMariner - Oct 24, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    From a purely aesthetic point of view, I hope Leyland spares us all the sight of Valverde and his rituals. Baseball is a game of ridiculously superstitious people, but jeeeeeeeeezuuuuuuuuus, give it a rest, man. It’s either a ridiculous show/attempt to distract or intimidate the batters, or it is a very public display of one man’s battle with OCD. Either way, get that checked out and fixed, then come back and pitch if you’d like.

    I get that it has nothing to do with the game — and I am NOT one of those people who thinks that you don’t get to show genuine emotion on the field (I think you get to celebrate when you hit a home run, and get mad when you strike out and no pitcher should take umbrage at it, unless of course he pathologically needs his rage in order to pitch)…but what Valverde does before and after pitches isn’t genuine emotion. And I guess my biggest objection is that the idiots at TBS couldn’t take the camera off of him (to show the batter swinging, say) because they wanted to capture all of his tics. (much like when TBS kept their camera on Verlander in the dugout with the headset on in Game 4, because Verlander said it brought Detroit good luck if he kept the headset on. Fine, keep him on audio, but I wanted to watch the actual game….and they could barely be bothered to even provide commentary to let you know what the pitch count was.)

    sigh. I’m ranting again. Bygones.

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