Struggling Valverde re-assigned to setup role
NEW YORK -- The first loss of Jose Valverde's season was the loss of his role. Valverde struggled in the first two weeks of the year as the Mets' closer, and manager Terry Collins announced Sunday that he was switching to veteran Kyle Farnsworth in save situations for the foreseeable future.
Valverde started the year with five straight scoreless appearances, but he had given up at least one home run in each of his last three outings before pitching a scoreless 14th to earn the win Sunday as the Mets outlasted the Braves, 4-3.
The right-hander has one blown save, and he allowed a three-run homer in Saturday night's loss before Collins elected to try a different option in the ninth inning
"I'm going to close with Farnsworth right now," Collins said Sunday. "I talked with Jose about it. I know he's still got the stuff to get people out. I want him to start using his other pitches a little bit. His fastball is certainly not 97 [mph] anymore, but it's good enough. He's just got to mix up some pitches."
Valverde has 288 career saves, but the 36-year-old struggled to a 5.59 ERA in 20 appearances for the American League champion Tigers last season. Valverde signed with the Mets before Spring Training and won the closer's job, but he has an 8.00 ERA in his first eight appearances.
Valverde was playful and dismissive Sunday morning when he met with the media, but he said that he understands the manager's position and wants to do the best he can for the team. Valverde, who has cracked 40 saves three times in his career, didn't want to dwell too much on his adversity.
"It's a part of the game," said Valverde of his recent struggles. "There's nothing you can do. It's over already. You know what I mean? It's a new game today. Try to win today, and that's it."
Valverde stressed several times on Sunday that everybody in the Mets' clubhouse wants to win, and he said he's going to work with his pitching coach and catchers to find his best form. But he's not taking his new role as a slight, and he doesn't think pitching earlier in the game will be any easier.
"I've never had pressure in my life," he said of taking a less stressful role. "The people who have pressure can go home. If you want to play baseball, play it because you like it. You enjoy it. You want to win. If you [fear] pressure, you have to go home, because this is not the situation you want."