Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 6/12/13
There's no doubt that Detroit Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski and his staff are already working -- and have been working -- on a replacement for closer Jose Valverde. For now, the Tigers will have to turn to someone else with the game on the line in the ninth. The most likely candidate for now has to be veteran Joaquin Benoit, who already has three saves this season. Then the Tigers can hope to find someone via trade before the non-waiver deadline July 31. On Wednesday, in what should be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain hit an 0-2 splitter for a game-tying home run off Valverde with two out in the bottom of the ninth. "No closer wants to do a blown save," Valverde told FOX Sports Detroit's Trevor Thompson on the field after the game. "Nobody. But this is a part of the game. The closer is going to save the game or lose the game." Since May 31, Valverde has allowed seven runs on 10 hits (five of them home runs) in 5 13 innings pitched. It took Valverde 75 appearances to allow five home runs in 2011, the year he was a perfect 49-for-49 on regular-season saves. When the Royals scored the winning run in the 10th, it put the exclamation point on another ruined effort by a Tigers starter. Justin Verlander was poised to win his fifth straight start after allowing no runs on three hits while walking two and striking out eight in seven innings of dominant work. How dominant was Verlander? No Royal reached second base while he was on the mound. "Verlander is Verlander. He's one of the best in the game and he showed why," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer told Thompson on the field after the game. "We were battling. (James) Shields was battling, pitch for pitch. We got to their bullpen and we came up with some big hits. That was huge for us." Huge for the Royals and devastating for the Tigers. "That's why sometimes baseball is not fair," catcher Brayan Pena told Thompson on the post-game show. "When you see a performance like Verlander today, the guy was unbelievable. The guy, like I told you guys in the past, he's gonna get better and better and better each time he's gonna be out there. He's been doing that so far. "Today was one of those days where he was unbelievable. He was mixing it up, he was pitching down in the strike zone and he did a great job for us. Actually, he did a superb job for us. But we just couldn't get a 'W' for him and for our team." Phil Coke, who gave up the game-winning hit in the 10th, blamed himself. "Our ace went out there and pitched like an ace and has nothing to show for it but a no-decision," Coke told Thompson. "That's not cool. It's not OK. Responsibility-wise, I feel like I'm the one that's responsible right now because I was the one on the mound when the game was completed in their favor. Personally, I'm irritated about it. I feel like I let us down. That's a very tough situation for me to be in." In the offseason, Dombrowski had said that Bruce Rondon would get a chance to be the Tigers closer this season. But Rondon was not consistent enough in spring training so he was sent to Triple-A Toledo for some seasoning. Rondon did get a cup of coffee in the big leagues at the end of April and beginning of May. He allowed three runs on five hits while walking two and striking out one in 2 13 innings, for an 11.57 ERA. But with the Mud Hens, Rondon has been lights-out. Rondon is 1-1 with an 0.77 ERA and 0.90 WHIP and 10 saves in 23 13 innings. He has 29 strikeouts and 12 walks. The Tigers should make Benoit the interim closer and call Rondon back up, not to close but to pitch the seventh or eighth, with the goal of eventually making him the closer. It's not the ideal option, especially with Octavio Dotel on the disabled list, but it's the best they have right now.
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