Found October 14, 2012 on Fox Sports:
Michigan-news-april-2010
Jim Leyland was thinking about it. That much, we knew. The evidence was beyond the Yankee Stadium wall, in left-center field, where Octavio Dotel warmed up in the visiting bullpen. He stirred one batter into the ninth inning Saturday night, after Russell Martin's single started the ninth inning from hell for the Detroit Tigers. Jose Valverde is the Tigers' closer. He has been since 2010. But it spoke to the depths of his recent struggles that Leyland had another reliever warm up behind him that quickly - even as Detroit held a 4-0 lead. Leyland was hedging. Turns out, he should have acted even more boldly. By now, you know what happened next: Ichiro Suzuki slammed a home run off Valverde to make it 4-2. Three batters later, Raul Ibañez, in the latest chapter of his Reggie-esque October, sent a game-tying souvenir into the right-field seats on a Valverde splitter that didn't split. It was only then that Leyland pulled Valverde. Dotel trotted in from the bullpen and struck out Eric Chavez - on three pitches - to send Game 1 of the American League Championship Series into extra innings. No thanks to their closer, the Tigers ended up winning, 6-4, in 12 innings. In retrospect, Leyland should have pulled Valverde after the Ichiro homer. At that point in the inning - three batters in - it was apparent that Valverde didn't trust his splitter and couldn't locate his fastball. Another group of second guessers will say -- entirely reasonably -Valverde shouldn't have been in the game at all. The A's torched him for a .444 batting average - and one walk-off loss - in the AL Division Series. This wasn't a save situation, so Leyland could have used Dotel or Rick Porcello to begin the inning without showing a lack of confidence in Valverde. In Leyland's defense, he brought Valverde into 23 games this season with the margin four runs or greater. So, it wasn't a surprise that he brought Valverde into the game in a non-save situation Saturday night. Either way, Leyland must now look across the diamond and borrow a page from Joe Girardi's binder: If the Yankees manager is willing to bench (and pinch-hit for) one-time franchise player Alex Rodriguez, then Leyland should be emboldened to demote an ineffective closer who's going to be a free agent in a few weeks. The Tigers have Dotel for this very reason. Dotel won a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals last year. He's closed before. He supplied 1-1/3 scoreless innings, under intense pressure, after relieving Valverde Saturday night. Dotel, who has not permitted a run in this postseason, should become the Tigers' closer effective immediately. And now Leyland must hope that he gets another chance to protect a ninth-inning lead in this series.
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