Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently spoke with reporters in a press conference at the winter meetings, and he had some interesting things to say about how the team will replace José Valverde at the closer position next season. Valverde imploded near the end of the season and made it tough on the Tigers to close out game, but his struggles reinforced the value of a good closer.
Leyland will be looking at veterans like Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke as candidates, but John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press also mentioned rookie Bruce Rondon as another player who could be in-the-mix. Leyland was asked if he will pick one man or use a closer-by-committe approach in 2013, and here is what he had to say:
"I know the guys who are on our team . . . Rondon is certainly a possibility to get an opportunity. I'll get a pulse for him in spring training - what I feel about him, his makeup.
"The one thing that Valverde was very good at was that he could turn the page pretty quickly. A closer has to be able to do that. When you get a young guy, I don't know for sure how a guy is going to respond. You don't know until you give somebody that opportunity and things happen and they let one get away. How did they respond to it? How did they bounce back the next day?
"It's such an important part of your team because when you let them get away in the ninth inning, obviously those can have an impact on your entire team. So that guy is going to be huge for us, as he is for every other team."
It will be interesting to see how Leyland sorts out the closer situation for a team that wil enter the season with very high expectations. This battle should be a top storyline during Spring Training.