While saying he still considers Jose Valverde his closer, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland conceded on Sunday that he won’t use Valverde to close out Game Two, should a situation present itself.
After blowing leads in each of the past two games in which he has appeared, Valverde won’t get an opportunity on Sunday. Leyland said that a 3 am meeting between his coaching staff and members of the Tigers’ front office ended with the decision that the Tigers would close by committee, at least for Game Two. Leyland did not commit to anything beyond Sunday’s game, but made a point to note Valverde’s importance to the club’s post-season chances.
Leyland said Valverde would work with pitching coach Jeff Jones on Sunday to address some mechanical issues. Valverde has said he’s 100 percent healthy and Leyland did not dispute that. Where the two men did disagree was when the topic of Valverde’s confidence was brought up. Leyland said Papa Grande looks as if he’s “waiting for something bad to happen” while on the mound.
The Tigers hold a 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven ALCS against the New York Yankees and will look to take a commanding two-game lead on Sunday behind right hander Anibal Sanchez. New York, who will play their first post-season game without Derek Jeter since 1981, will turn to righty Hiroki Kuroda on short rest. Game Two has the feel of a must-win for the Yankees, who do not want to head to Detroit trailing by two games. Reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander will start on Tuesday for the Tigers.
If the game gets to the ninth and the Tigers have a lead to protect, Leyland says he’s not sure who will get the opportunity to close out the game. right handers Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit are veterans who have been in the position before, but young fireballer Al Alburquerque has the best pure stuff and shows a fearlessness that could be effective in the role. Alburquerque has yet to record a save in the major leagues.