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Valverde clears waivers, heads to Triple-A

DETROIT -- Jose Valverde might not be finished with the Tigers just yet, even after being designated for assignment a week ago. The team announced on Thursday that its former closer cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Toledo.

The Tigers brought up the idea with Valverde when they gave him the news on Friday, and made it clear they were hoping he might take them up on their offer. The idea behind the move was to give Valverde the chance to work on his pitching, especially the splitter he has struggled to throw consistently, in lower-pressure situations.

"I'm glad he's going to stay in the organization and just see if he can possibly go down there and get it straightened out," manager Jim Leyland said Thursday.

The assignment comes with no guarantee Valverde will make it back. But the Tigers don't have a set closer to replace him, and the fact that no other team claimed him on waivers made this likely the best opportunity he was going to find.

"We'll take a look at his velocity and the movement on his pitches, command on his pitches and his ability to throw a split-finger, which when we first brought him back we thought was very important for him. He really has struggled with that," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week. "Again, I think a lot of it is mechanically related. When [Tigers pitching coach] Jeff Jones talks about it, his arm angle is a little bit lower than we would like. That's what we would look for."

Valverde was expected to make a stop in Toledo on his way back to the big leagues in April after he signed a Minor League contract, but the Tigers promoted him straight from Class A Lakeland. The 35-year-old hasn't pitched at the Triple-A level since 2006 in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

It's unclear whether Valverde will be closing for the Mud Hens, who have had Bruce Rondon thriving in the ninth inning for most of the season.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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