Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 6/7/13
Michigan-news-february
Detroit -- He's not worried. His manager's not worried. His teammates are not worried. But nobody makes Tigers fans more worried right now than Jose Valverde. They're far less concerned about Austin Jackson's ailing hamstring than they are about the closer. Valverde came into the ninth inning of Friday night's game with a 7-3 lead and immediately gave up a leadoff home run to Cleveland Indians DH Jason Giambi. That really wouldn't be a problem if that was the extent of the damage. But after striking out Mike Aviles, Valverde gave up another home run to Drew Stubbs. Both home runs came on his famous splitters. In his last three games, Valverde has allowed four home runs. "Well, they were two split-fingers, and they just golfed them," manager Jim Leyland said. "That happens. But the key to that was that he didnt walk anybody. Im happy with that." Valverde got Michael Bourn to fly out, gave up a single to Jason Kipnis and then finally got out of it by inducing a game-ending grounder by Nick Swisher for a 7-5 victory. "I think it went just how I wanted it go, you know what I mean?" Valverde said. "I don't think I threw a bad pitch. It's nothing you can do. You have to credit the hitters. It was the pitch I wanted." Starter Justin Verlander said you have to take the situation into account. "Closers have a different mentality," Verlander said. "A lot of times you see them go out there in non-save situations and get hit around a little bit, but when push comes to shove, they get it done. It's just a different situation for those guys with the game not, per se, being on the line. You get your bell rung a little bit and you come right back and make some quality pitches, which he was able to do, and close the door." The Tigers' and Verlander's fourth straight victory and increasing their Central Division lead over the Indians to 3 12 games certainly are positive things. But at this point, you have to wonder if you can trust Valverde with a one-run lead heading into the ninth. On Thursday, Valverde looked like his 2011, 49-for-49 self, throwing a 1-2-3 ninth against the Tampa Bay Rays for his seventh save of the season. But in his previous outing in Baltimore May 31, Valverde blew the save, giving up four runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning. Valverde has a 4.30 ERA and he has given up seven runs in 14 23 innings. It's true that other closers like former Tiger and current Rays closer Fernando Rodney have had their issues, too. Rodney has a 4.74 ERA and has given up 13 runs in 24 23 innings. Rodney had 48 saves last season and only two blown saves. Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson had 51 saves last year, blowing only three opportunities. This year he's got 20 but he's already blown four and has allowed 14 earned runs in 29 innings. Closing games at the big league level is not an easy job and the Tigers don't really have any other options at this point. Young Bruce Rondon, who was supposed to take the job this summer, has saved 10 of 11 chances for the Toledo Mud Hens and has an 0.84 ERA. But he's walked 11 in 21 13 innings. So for now, it's going to be Valverde in the ninth. "What I like about it is I can see his velocity coming back, he's using that fastball pretty good and he's feeling good about it," catcher Brayan Pena said. "That's something that makes everybody feel good 'cause we know that he's a great closer. We know that we need him and he knows that we need him. So I don't think there's going to be any problem." It's not necessarily a problem now but it will need to be addressed before the Tigers attempt a postseason run.
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