In day 3 of Big Potato-gate, Tigers manager Jim Leyland fanned the media and fan base flames by refusing to rule out Jose Valverde as his ALCS game 3 closer.
Leyland on the possibility Valverde will see the mound tonight in a save situation:
"Yes, he (Valverde) is part of the equation."
"I'm going to wait and see how things play out," Leyland said. "It could happen. I hope we've got to worry about it. But I'll wait and see how it plays out, what the lineup looks like, who they've got coming up. Things like that.
"You've got to have a couple different plans."
Leyland's confidence level in Valverde may be raised due to his working with pitching coach Jeff Jones to correct a flaw in his delivery. Fixing his mechanics in a mere 2-3 days is possible if it was a minor flaw.
Honestly, it sounds like Leyland is continuing to hedge his bets. He didn't say Valverde was closing, just one option of several. He's doing exactly what he's done over the past 3 days; continue to show confidence in his closer yet saying he will allow the situation determine what direction he goes with his bullpen.
Keep in mind there are differing save situations, some higher leverage than others. Protecting a 3 run lead while facing the bottom of the order pales in comparison to a 1 run lead with the top of the Yankees' order coming to the plate.
Leyland may be far more tempted to use Valverde in the former rather than the latter.
The closer controversy could be moot, for a number of reasons. As Leyland said in his pre-game presser:
"The first obstacle is having the lead at that point. I'll cross the rest of it when I get there."
If the Tigers are in position to protect a 9th inning lead, it's a good place to be. I'd prefer the Tigers have to figure out who will close than determine how to come from behind.
Keep in mind for as badly as game 1 was bungled, Jim Leyland handled game 2 perfectly, using Phil Coke to nail down a 2 inning save. How many fans would have thought that possible 6 weeks ago?
So I'm not ruling anything out for game 3, including a possible appearance by the Big Potato.