Leyland: 'No-brainer' bringing back Valverde
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland was combing around his office and taking phone calls Friday morning before the Tigers' home opener. He wasn't getting settled into his office again after the offseason. He was looking for Jose Valverde's phone number.
There's no guarantee he'll manage Valverde again, but Leyland wanted to at least congratulate the former closer on being back in the organization and get an idea where he's at pitching-wise.
When the 2012 season ended, it appeared Leyland was saying so long to Valverde for good. In this case, situations change.
"I'm really happy for him. I'm happy for us," Leyland said. "I think it's a really simple thing, to be honest with you. I think if you look at the entire situation, common sense tells you that when you've got a high-profile agent like Scott Boras and you're a free agent, it probably dictates -- at least, most people are thinking -- really big dollars and a long-term contract. And I think the simple denomination there is we weren't ready to do that. So obviously, it didn't turn out that way.
"I think this is a great situation. It's a no-brainer to take a look, see what's there."
In Valverde's case, it's the situation Boras was anticipating all along, even if it unfolded more slowly.
"We were patient," Boras told MLB.com in a phone conversation Thursday night, "and we thought there would be a need in the organization."
Boras said that Valverde had other offers, but that the familiarity with the Tigers and the opportunity to fill save situations on a contending team made it an obvious choice.
Boras said that he expects Valverde to report to Tigers extended spring training this weekend and pick up his throwing program. He has been throwing bullpen sessions every other day in the Dominican Republic, but he hasn't been throwing to hitters.
That could happen soon enough in extended spring games next week. From there, Valverde could be ready to face Triple-A hitters at Toledo within a few outings.
Leyland agreed with the assessment from team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski that Valverde had gotten away from his splitter last year and become a one-pitch pitcher. Statistics on fangraphs.com and STATS show that transition actually began in 2011, when he went from almost an even split to 80-20 in favor of fastballs.
The signing did not cause a ton of reaction within the Tigers' bullpen. Joaquin Benoit, Valverde's closest friend on the team, said he didn't know anything about the plan and that he hasn't spoken with Valverde since January or February. Octavio Dotel said the signing was a "good thing."
For now, at least, Benoit said the deal has no impact on the closer by committee.
"Right now, we have to be ready every inning," Benoit said.