Jose Valverde pitched 39 innings before the All-Star Game. Seemingly save situation or not, he was in every game the Tigers led.
The past three weeks, he's made just four appearances totaling six inning, and he has not taken the mound for the past week.
Concerned over soreness in Valverde's elbow, the Tigers sent him for an MRI on Monday with team physican Dr. Stephen Lemos and received what appears to be good news: The results showed no structural damage, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports.
Hopefully you can teach an old dog new tricks, because the takeaway from this episode is that wise use of Valverde may be best. Keeping him on the mound for 60 pitches against the Red Sox on July 30 appears to have been a very bad idea. That was 33 more than his season high of 27. Since then, Valverde has pitched just 15 innings and allowed 10 runs (eight earned). Even before then, he showed signs of sliding in July and gave up 11 in 14 innings, so maybe that was earlier overuse catching up to him.
Whether Valverde pitches again this season is still up in the air, but it's no great concern whether he does or not. If he rests his arm for the rest of the season, the younger players will receive opportunities to audition for future closer consideration. Phil Coke picked up his second save of the season last night. On Sunday, he and Robbie Weinhardt both had poor showings in the ninth inning against the White Sox in a game that ultimately ended with Daniel Schlereth picking up his first career save in the 11th.
It's a process -- sometimes about as fun of a process as watching Calvin Johnson's end zone nab being ruled incomplete, of course. Ultimately I think it will be good for the team, but only so long as Valverde comes back healthy next year. He had an incredible couple of months for the Tigers, so keeping him healthy for a division run in 2011 and finding a strong cast of late-innings characters is paramount.
... But if Valverde doesn't pitch again this season I'm going to miss his dance. Maybe he can make a special appearance by the end of the season.