After a lackluster start to the season by the bullpen, the Detroit Tigers made two big moves on April 23 to try and stabilize it.
According to MLive.com's Chris Iott, the first move is that the Tigers called up pitcher Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo and placed pitcher Octavio Dotel on the DL for elbow soreness:
The Tigers announced this afternoon that they have recalled Rondon and placed Octavio Dotel on the disabled list.
The second surprise move of the afternoon was that the Tigers officially signed former closer Jose Valverde to a one-year deal. According to the Detroit Free Press, Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced that Valverde would be the closer:
The team announced they signed the relief pitcher to a 1-year major-league deal shortly after their game with the Kansas City Royals tonight was postponed. He will be available out of the bullpen Wednesday as the team’s closer if there is a save situation, manager Jim Leyland said.
While Valverde's struggles in the 2012 postseason are well documented, it is a surprise that Valverde is the Tigers' new closer, especially after the Tigers said they wouldn't re-sign Valverde in Oct. 2012.
When Rondon, who was the odds-on favorite to be the closer in 2013, struggled in spring training. When he was shipped to Toledo, there wasn't an immediate replacement on the roster.
Since the beginning of the season, the Tigers have gone with closer-by-committee, but no one has claimed the closer job.
Then on April 4 the Tigers signed Valverde to a minor-league deal, which was a low-risk move and appears to have paid off.
According to Tony Paul from the Detroit News, Valverde has pitched brilliantly and the Tigers decided to bring him up:
Valverde, 35, has thrown in several games, a combination of extended spring games, scrimmages, and Single A Lakeland games.
The Tigers, late last week, sent front-office officials to see him in person, including assistant GM Al Avila and Al Kaline. The reports, across the board, have been so glowing that the Tigers decided to skip his plan cameo at Triple A Toledo.
Whether Valverde or Rondon are successful in Detroit remains to be seen, but this is a smart gamble by the Tigers.
Rondon hasn't allowed a run in 7.2 innings with nine strikeouts and only two walks for Toledo. If Rondon has finally mastered his control, the Tigers might have two strong choices for closer after not having any to begin the season.
According to the Paul, Brayan Villarreal was optioned to Triple-A to clear the bullpen spot for Valverde:
To make room for Valverde, the Tigers optioned struggling right-hander Brayan Villarreal to Triple A Toledo.
Regardless how fans feel about Valverde or Rondon, it is good to see the Tigers willing to make changes and not standing put.
*All statistics are as of April 23
**All statistics are from baseball-reference.com