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Jose Valverde remains the Tigers' closer, but in name only. Rather than decide upon a full-time replacement, Jim Leyland will temporarily go with situational closers.
After blowing his past 2 save opportunities, including a brutal 4 run implosion in ALCS game 1, Papa Grande has been demoted from closing indefinitely, yet still holds the title.
According to Mlive's Chris Iott, Leyland will not use his beleaguered reliever in a save situation this afternoon, but he still considers Valverde the closer.
Before everyone loses their minds, Leyland also added a few caveats.
Pitching coach Jeff Jones will be working with Valverde. They believe there are flaws in his delivery. In Leyland's words, "It's too slow."
He considers Valverde an important part of the team, but his next appearance will likely be in a non-closer's role.
There will not be a temporary closer named, the pitcher used will depend upon the situation.
Reading between the lines, I think we can determine the following: Due to a lack of confidence and/or a flaw in mechanics, Valverde has been demoted to low leverage appearances. But Leyland refuses to say it's a permanent demotion in order to not embarrass his player on the national stage. A full-time closer will not be named as there is no suitable replacement. Thus, it's closer by committee for the time being.
To Leyland's credit, he's not throwing Valverde under the bus in what is a very emotionally charged situation. No one agrees with how the 9th inning played out in game 1, but Leyland is handling the blow back in in the best possible manner.
Valverde may still be needed down the line. If Leyland comes out and says Velverde's done, no ifs ands or buts about it, he should plan on using a 24 man roster in the ALCS. The Big Potato would be roasted, completely useless from here on out. In handling it as he has, at least publicly hedging his bets, Leyland has a chance of salvaging something out of Valverde.
If Valverde turns out to be injured, another option is to remove him from the roster and activate Brayan Villarreal. That would mean Valverde's season (and quite likely his Tigers career) is over, doing so makes him ineligible for the World Series.
Being the Tigers' bullpen doesn't have a suitable replacement for Valverde, it makes sense to go with a committee. All the relievers have flaws to varying degrees. Joaquin Benoit has been eminently, scarily hittable. The right/left splits of Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke are not conducive to closing full-time. Al Alburquerque allows too many base runners, and more importantly, is too inexperienced for Leyland's tastes. Rick Porcello doesn't strike batters out and is needed in a long relief role. Drew Smyly is a starter in reliever's clothing who has no experience pitching in back-to-back games.
The implosion of Valverde leaves the bullpen in disarray and Leyland in the proverbial hard place. Relievers will have to pulled out of their normal roles. Long men become setup men, setup relievers become closers, no one will know for sure what their role will be from game to game. This is not how Leyland likes to work, but Valverde has left him no choice.
If there is one saving grace to the entire Valverde mess, it's the Tigers' elite starting rotation. By pitching deep into games, they can make the bullpen domino effect all but moot.
The World Series is riding on it.