Even though Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Valverde was shelled in each of his last two postseason appearances, manager Jim Leyland did not completely rule out using his struggling reliever as a closer in Game 3 against the Yankees on Tuesday night.
Leyland acknowledged that getting the lead itself is enough of an issue, but told MLive.com's Chris Iott that he will have a handful of different plans based on the situation for a possible closer, and that Valverde is definitely going to be in the mix.
"I'm going to wait and see how things play out," Leyland said. "It could happen. I hope we've got to worry about it. But I'll wait and see how it plays out, what the lineup looks like, who they've got coming up."
The 34-year-old Valverde gave up three earned runs on four hits against the Athletics on Oct. 10, and then imploded for four more runs against the Yankees in Game 1. Leyland used lefty specialist Phil Coke for a full two innings to close out Game 2 with relative ease, but will have a handful of options to turn to in a possible save situation on Tuesday night.
Though it seems unlikely that Valverde would enter or remain on the mound with a game-tying run at the plate in fear of a home run, the Tigers may not have a choice if Tuesday's meeting once again bleeds into extra innings. It could be a great thing for Valverde to hit the mound and start throwing strikes again, but it's hard to believe that both Coke and fellow reliever Joaquin Benoit aren't better ninth-inning options at this point.