Leyland on Jose Valverde: 'I'm shocked' he doesn't have a job
The Tigers made no effort to re-sign Jose Valverde, allowing him to leave as a free agent after his awful October. But Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave Valverde a strong endorsement Thursday, saying he's shocked Valverde didn't find a job before spring training began.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- There was no way the Tigers could bring Jose Valverde back, not after what happened last October.
But shouldn't Valverde be able to get a job somewhere?
Jim Leyland thinks so. And he's the guy who made the decision to take Valverde's closing job away in the middle of the postseason.
"I'm shocked -- totally shocked -- and broken-hearted that he doesn't have a job," the Tigers manager said Thursday morning. "In a two-week period, it seems like everything he did for two years was forgotten."
Valverde was Leyland's closer for the last three seasons. He went 49 for 49 in save situations in 2011, and added three more saves in that postseason.
Valverde had five blown saves last year, but things really fell apart in October. After a blown save against the A's and then a near-disastrous Game 1 outing against the Yankees, Leyland took Valverde out of the closer role for the remainder of the postseason.
That ended any chance of Valverde returning to the Tigers, and when he became a free agent, the team made no effort to keep him. In a free agent market that hasn't been kind to closers, Valverde's name has rarely been mentioned.
Leyland said he has recommended Valverde to a couple of friends with other teams, and took the chance Thursday to recommend him publicly.
"This guy was absolutely tremendous, and he was a tremendous teammate, too," he said. "Everywhere he's been, everybody loves him. Everybody."
Leyland agreed that Valverde's split-finger fastball started to fail him last year.
"For some reason, his split wasn't splitting like it should," Leyland said. "I think it's still there. I think it'll come back."