Last autumn's bullpen nightmare has revisited the Tigers, who are no doubt wondering if the Jose Valverde experiment is finally, and destructively, history.
No, I don't believe Alex Avila's circumstance -- his dad, Al, happens to be the Tigers assistant general manager -- has a thing to do with him remaining on the roster as he slogs through one of the uglier slumps a former All-Star Game starter has endured.
Valverde has been back in town six weeks. They have been six nervous weeks for fans who do not trust the Tigers closer to finish a game without some degree of trauma. And yet here are his numbers: Sixteen games, eight saves.
Nick Castellanos might want to consider a weekly, rather than monthly, apartment lease at Toledo. You could make a case for the Tigers calling their top prospect to Detroit. Soon.
Valverde has six saves and a 0.75 ERA. Against his pitches opposing batters are hitting .077. Because of Valverde’s knack for handling the ninth, Tigers manager Jim Leyland now has a bullpen that is more functional, more efficient, more trustworthy.
Replacing a catcher is different from making a staff change at another position. That’s because a catcher works as an extension of a pitcher. It is the biggest reason why Avila’s bosses, so far, have refrained from sending him to Triple A Toledo.
Count a certain white-haired scribe among those who sometimes fail to acknowledge Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is one of us. Because he spins no-hitters and wins Cy Young and MVP awards, the baseball world tends to expect infallibility each time he pitches.
If he doesn’t pull out of this spiral, and in a hurry, the Tigers will be left with no practical choice but to return Avila, 26, to Triple A Toledo for a head-clearing stint that might put him back on track.
Porcello has had one bad start in 2013. He has four consecutive quality starts (six innings or more, three or fewer earned runs allowed) after winning Friday night’s pitching fest that saw the Tigers tip the Rangers, 2-1.
College pitchers, ideally, are on the Tigers’ menu since they could be staring at a rotation hole if Max Scherzer follows the customary advice of agent Scott Boras and tries out free agency following the 2014 season.
Lynn Henning joined The Detroit News sports staff in 1979 after 3½ years as a sports writer and columnist for the Lansing State Journal. A lifelong Michigan native (St. Johns) and a 1974 journalism graduate from Michigan State, Henning has specialized through the years in covering baseball, as well as Michigan and Michigan State, Lions and Red Wings, and in writing about the outdoors. Henning spent seven years during the 1990s as editor of PGA Magazine and as a writer for the national weekly, Golfweek.
- Lynn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynn Henning's favorites:Favorite movie: Fargo
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