Joaquin Benoit is the Tigers' closer. Except when he's not. That is essentially what Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media in his pregame press meeting today.
According to Matthew B. Mowery's Twitter feed (though you can choose from others), Leyland named Benoit closer "when he's healthy and available. But he's not naming a closer." Well, that clears things up. We'll just assume Benoit continues to be healthy and that the Tigers don't find themselves in a save situation every ninth inning for a week straight. If that were to happen, well, who knows. But for now, for the sake of simplicity, let's call him Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, shall we?
Benoit has finished 11 games this season and 42 in the Tigers uniform. He has four saves and a 1.80 ERA (2.49 FIP, 2.53 SIERA, if you're into such things.) Benoit has struck out 30.2 percent of batters he's faced (his best in the Detroit uniform), though his walk rate is up slightly to 7.8 percent.
There's no reason to believe Benoit will be anything but successful. It would certainly help the Tigers if they didn't have to concentrate on trading for a high-price closer before the July 31 deadline. But, we'll see.
That leaves the question, Whither Jose Valverde? Well, that's unsettled business. Fox Sports Detroit/AP writer David Hogg cites Leyland as saying, "I'll pitch him as I see fit and try to use him intelligently." Please, no titters from the chorus.
Valverde once had an ERA of 0.75. Since then (May 27) the figure has ballooned to 5.59. In the month of May, he has allowed four home runs and has an ERA of nearly 10. The Orioles scored four runs off him Wednesday.
Valverde was never known for pitching well outside of a save situation. Now the save he's going for is his career. But we'll have to wait to see which Valverde shows up -- and when.