Nashville, TN- It seems unlikely Jose Valverde will return to Detroit next season unless he's taking the mound for the opposition, but in his press conference today, Tigers manager Jim Leyland made it clear that he'd "like to have somebody" in the closing role for next season. Apparently, Leyland had some of that closer mentality Kool-Aid:
"To be honest with you, from a selfish standpoint, when a manager has a guy like a Mariano Rivera or a [Jonathan] Papelbon, or whoever it may be, in our case Valverde last year, number one, they are really good at what to do and those guys are hard to find, and number two, to be honest with you, from a selfish standpoint, you very rarely ever second guess. You bring those guys in and you're not really answering any questions after the game. When you do it by committee, and you pick and choose, then you leave yourself open for second-guessing."
Even though Leyland's closer failed him at the end of the season, he still believes that having a pitcher with the closer's makeup who can handle the ninth inning is a lot easier than trying to manage the ninth based on match-ups. "When you do it by committee, and you pick and choose, then you leave yourself open for second-guessing."
After Valverde's late-season collapse, Leyland did manage the bullpen as closer by committee relying on Phil Coke and Brayan Villarreal in late innings, but he isn't comfortable with the proposition of doing that for a full season. "I think it's difficult to do it that way -- they only liked it because it was successful." Perhaps for Leyland, a manager who faced a lot of criticism early in the season when the Tigers went 13-16 in May, relying on one pitcher removes some of the guesswork (and the blame).
When asked whom he'd consider for the closing role next season, Leyland said, "I think that we'll find out some of that information in spring training, you'll get a pulse. A lot of that closer situation has to do with the personality of the pitcher. Sometimes the stuff is good enough, but the mental part of that, it can be very fragile."
Before anyone could even ask him about top pitching prospect Bruce Rondon, Leyland offered that he would be considered for the late-innings position. "There's certainly a possibility that he can get an opportunity, but I'll get a pulse for him at spring training." Leyland added, "when you get a young guy, you don't know how they are going to respond. You don't know how they will bounce back the next day."