Seven games is a pretty small sample, but so far it looks like Joaquin Benoit is going to give Detroit good value on the dollar. Make that three years and $15-million-plus.
The Tigers paid unprecedented money for a free agent setup man, at least until the New York Yankees followed suit, during the winter in recognition of the fact that scoreless eighth (or even seventh) innings are only marginally less important than scoreless ninths.
They linked themselves with Benoit for three seasons, in general manager Dave Dombrowski's words, "because if we didn't, somebody else would have."
Detroit has three victories in seven tries this season and the back-end combination of Benoit and closer Jose Valverde have had their hands in two of them.
Benoit, in fact, has picked up right where he left off last season, not allowing runs.
Benoit worked a perfect eighth and Valverde notched his second save with a ninth in which he allowed one runner, on a hit, to nail down Detroit's 5-2 home opener over Kansas City.
"Our pitchers did a good job," manager Jim Leyland said. "(Daniel) Schlereth got a huge out (to end the seventh) on a real good play by (Will) Rhymes. Then we were able to close it out with our big guys."
Continued effectiveness by Benoit and Valverde would mean Detroit should win more than 90 percent of the time when it leads after seven innings, and Leyland is looking forward to getting Ryan Perry and/or Joel Zumaya back so he can look forward to shortening games even more.
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