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Jim Leyland leaning toward Joaquin Benoit for save chances

Jun 20, 2013, 8:03 PM EDT

Jim Leyland Getty Getty Images

With Jose Valverde showing exactly why he failed to attract much interest over the winter, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is seemingly phasing him out of the closer role.

According to Jason Beck and Bobby Nightengale of, Leyland said today that while he isn’t ready to make an official announcement on his closer situation, he’s prepared to go with Joaquin Benoit in the short-term.

“I’m not naming anybody closer,” Leyland said Thursday. “I’m just saying that if Benoit’s available right now, I would probably try to close with him, if he’s fresh and available.”

Valverde allowed just one run over his first 12 appearances this season, but he has been touched up for 11 runs on 15 hits (including five home runs) over his last eight appearances. This includes four runs in a non-save situation yesterday against the Orioles. Benoit notched a save during Sunday’s game, which was an indication that a change could be in the offing.

As for Valverde, Leyland said he’ll use him when he sees fit and “will try to do that intelligently.” That could mean never.

Interestingly, Valverde’s contract includes a $500,000 bonus if he reaches 25 games finished, with an additional $500,000 bonus for every five games finished after that. He’s currently sitting on 18 games finished for the year. If the Tigers truly think he’s cooked as a late-game option, it wouldn’t be surprising if they cut bait soon.

  1. sabatimus - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    I’d like to thank Andrew Bailey for sucking up yet another save situation.

  2. Glenn - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    If Leyland is so smart, why did he hang his hat on Velverde this year? When will major league managers stop relying on the lockstep closer role and reliance on “name” closers? There seems to be so much room for intelligent bullpen management that is being ignored by most of baseball’s decision makers.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:17 AM

      Well, Rondon didn’t work out, so who else are they supposed to use until they find out if Brian Wilson will be back in force? You can only do so much intelligent management with pitchers who lack consistency.

      • dawgpoundmember - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:37 AM

        Umm, Benoit? He is not throwing like he is pitching in the home run derby this year. Smyly has proved he can pitch no matter what number the inning says on the scoreboard, so he can pitch the 8th. So committee in the 7th if needed, or try Alvarez in the pen when Sanchez is back.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:41 AM

        I like Smyly a lot but I like keeping him as an earlier option — say if Porcello is having a BULLSHIT outing. I just don’t have enough confidence in Benoit to say he’s reliable closer material. It isn’t as if he’s been all that lately either (the bar is low if you just have to be better than V-Wiggles). Thank god we should know in a month what the deal is with Wilson. None of our other options are rock solid.

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 21, 2013 at 6:51 AM

        I do have a trade idea for you. The Jays currently have 8 pitchers in their bull pen. All 8 are better than any relief pitcher on the Tigers. Once the Jays go to 7 relief pitchers in July, make a trade for the 8th man. The Tigers would not regret it.

  3. auggie1955 - Jun 21, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs and Tigers weren’t trying to work out a deal that would send Kevin Gregg to Detroit. Gregg has been outstanding for the Cubs – 0.81 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 10 SAVES , and 0 BLOWN SAVES.

    • largebill - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      I get wanting Smyly stretched out to go back in rotation if needed, but they can’t keep losing games in 9th that they won during first 8 innings. Personally, I understand that every inning is important. However, to players it is more demoralizing to feel you’ve done enough to win and then having your closer come in and toss BP hoping it’s hit to fielders, which is what Valverde is doing.

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