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Tigers release former closer Valverde

In 20 games for defending AL champs, veteran had 5.59 ERA and nine saves

CLEVELAND -- For the third time in the last nine months, the Tigers have cut ties with Jose Valverde. This time, it appears to be for good.

The team announced on Wednesday that it has unconditionally released Valverde from his Minor League contract, ending his stint at Triple-A Toledo after just over a month. For much of that time, any chance of his return to Detroit seemed minute. This pretty much formalizes it.

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski characterized the release as a mutual parting with no hard feelings. The Tigers brought back Valverde on a Minor League contract after they designated him for assignment in June, but the contract included an opt-out clause that allowed Valverde to ask for his release if he wasn't up with the big club after 30 days.

Valverde and the Tigers extended that another 10 days after Valverde left the team for a couple of different stints to attend to personal matters. Before the Mud Hens' game at Columbus on Tuesday, however, Valverde and team officials had a conversation about his future, which he was told did not include Detroit.

Valverde stuck around for the game, then parted ways. It is not known what Valverde's plans are from here.

Valverde went 7-for-7 in save chances for the Hens, but he gave up five runs on 14 hits in 11 innings, walking six batters and striking out 10. But the success of Joaquin Benoit in the closer's role in Detroit pretty well ruled out any chance of Valverde's return up Interstate 75.

"I will always have great memories of him," manager Jim Leyland said. "He did a terrific job for us in this organization. I don't know what his plans are, but we certainly wish him the best. He was a terrific closer and a terrific teammate."

Though recent history has strongly argued against ruling out another reunion, Valverde's Tigers tenure appears to be complete. His 2011 season, which included 49 saves in 49 appearances during the regular season, will go down alongside Willie Hernandez's American League MVP Award season in 1984 as the best single seasons by Tigers closers.

"That's one of those freak years that comes around every now and then," Leyland said. "It was pretty impressive. My biggest memory will be in the playoffs against the Yankees when he got [Curtis] Granderson, [Robinson] Cano and [Alex] Rodriguez back-to-back-to-back. Pretty good finale in Game 5 of the Division Series."

Valverde saved 110 games for Detroit from 2010-12, but he was not tendered a contract following last season, during which he struggled mightily during the AL Division Series against the A's. He eventually re-signed with the club as a free agent on April 4 and debuted later that month, as the Tigers struggled to find an answer in the ninth inning.

In 20 appearances, the 35-year-old posted a 5.59 ERA over 19 1/3 innings while going 9-for-12 in save opportunities.

Over 11 Major League seasons, Valverde owns a 3.19 ERA and has compiled 286 saves.

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