I’ve been scratching my head over the announcement that the Tigers not only signed Jose Valverde, but manager Jim Leyland named him the team’s closer. It really makes no sense to name a guy a closer who melted down in the playoffs and appeared all but done.
Papa Grande was so bad that Leyland refused to use him in the World Series, not that there were any closing situations anyway when the Tigers were swept by the San Francisco Giants. Supposedly Valverde has it all back. His fast ball is back. His confidence is back and the mentality to mow people down in the ninth is all back.
However, there is a second part to this equation that could be me over thinking things or it could be the Tigers thinking long term. Hours before the Tigers signed Valverde, they called up heat thrower Bruce Rondon who looked lethargic in spring training. Or maybe the proper term is he chocked on his opportunity to make the parent club. He looked anxious and uncomfortable on the mound.
My guess is it was way more mental than physical. When Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski named him closer before knowing he had the mental make up to be closer, Rondon all of a sudden could not walk and chew gum at the same time. The kid is young and although he has the physical skills to be a closer, he lacked the mental make up. We saw that in spring training.
So how do you remedy that? You bring up Rondon the same time you bring in Valverde. Leyland immediately names Valverde the closer and punches anyone in the face who suggests that Rondon could close. There will be no talk of Rondon being closer because that is Valverde’s job until he explodes. The Tigers are banking that Valverde can hang on to the job long enough for Rondon to get in a few innings, regain his confidence and then become the eventual closer.
I’m not saying that will happen this season. But it could.
This might sound like a wild conspiracy theory but do not dismiss it yet. This isn’t so much as bringing Valverde in and placing him in the heater as much as taking the heat off Rondon and putting him in a low stress situation.
Do you buy any of this?
(We can discuss this and more tonight during my book signing at 24 Seconds Bar in Berkley from 7-9 pm. 100 Things Tiger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die is $15 per copy and $25 for two. Charge cards are accepted.)