It has been known among Tigers fans for some time now that manager Jim Leyland's use of the bullpen can be a bit...err...shaky, I guess, I will say.
Friday night's victory over the Boston Red Sox really took the cake, as closer Jose Valverde was hung out to dry, throwing 61 pitches to record the final four outs of the game.
He did record all four outs on strikeouts, including Mike Cameron looking on a 3-2 count with two runners aboard to end the game.
However, "Papa Grande" also walked five batters and allowed two hits, including a grand slam to "Big Papi" David Ortiz.
It was a near disaster, and will probably have lingering repercussions over the next couple games. Consider this, have you ever seen a closer throw 61 pitches in a single outing?
Friday night's complete indifference by Leyland opens a whole can of worms going forward.
The first is this: Valverde had not pitched since the double-header against Toronto last Sunday.
Despite the fact that the Tigers got swept in a four-game set by the Rays, Valverde was still left to rot in the bullpen the entire series rather than get an appearance to help keep him sharp.
Valverde threw 61 pitches Friday night. That means he won't be available for Saturday's 4:10 p.m. match against the Red Sox, and could be doubtful for the series finale on Sunday.
So now the Tigers are in a situation where they don't have their closer, which could lead to the team being stifled in more close games.
Finally, the decision to leave Valverde in that long could have seriously jeopardized the health of a pitcher who has been pitching in short relief situations his entire career.
After all, pitchers are not created equal.
True, Valverde has allowed runs in five of his seven appearances now since the All-Star break. He probably did need a chance to pitch out of a jam, but there comes a point where you have to draw the line and say enough is enough.
That point probably came somewhere around the time Ortiz hit that grand slam.
Jeremy Bonderman was available to pitch in relief before his next scheduled start next week. Leyland should have used him.
Thank goodness for Cameron. He provided two of Valverde's four outs.
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