The more I learn about Jose Valverde, the more I like that he was signed to a minor-league contract.
Terry Collins said he called Jim Leyland to better understand Valverde's struggles in 2013, during which the once-dominant closer had a 5.59 ERA in just 20 games. However, he was 49-for-49 in save chances with the Tigers in 2011...
According to Leyland, Valverde is fine. The big problem was that he got Valverde warming up in the bullpen too often, or what coaches call 'get ups,' then he never got Valverde in to games. He was often burned out before ever pitching. It happened enough to begin throwing Valverde off his game. Time will tell if this has any impact on a better 2014, but Collins has a good relationship with bullpen coach Jon Debus, who will be responsible for getting the pitcher ready for game action.
Speaking of Valverde,"two weeks in to camp, he has emerged as the leader of, what the reliever calls, the team’s 'Dominican Mafia,'" according to the New York Post's Mike Puma.
The members include young pitchers Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Rafael Montero and Gonzalez Germen, as well as Bartolo Colon, with meetings held in a corner of the clubhouse near Valverde’s locker.
I'm such a sucker, by the way. I read this, I see Bobby Parnell pitching well with that beard, I'm excited about Vic Black's potential and personality, and, within just a few days, I've gone from thinking bullpen is a weakness to a potential strength. This may or may not be true. It says more about the bubble that is St. Lucie and spring training. They may end up terrible. But, for now, I see hope...
To read more about Valverde's 'Dominican Republic,' check out Puma's story in the post by clicking here...