MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time in 10 days, Jose Valverde was on the mound for the Tigers, pitching a scoreless ninth inning on Friday in Detroit's 10-6 victory over the Twins.
It was not a save situation for the Tigers closer, but it was still good to have Papa Grande back in action. Valverde has been sidelined since a May 15 appearance against the White Sox, after suffering a lower back strain.
"I thought he was good, he was fine," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Friday's victory. "I was a little worried going into the ninth, maybe a little concerned about control because he hasn't been out there for so long because of the injury, but he was pretty good, he was around the plate. He threw the ball well."
Valverde showed he is ready to resume his closers role, as he gave up just one hit and struck out the final two batters in Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. He threw a total of 22 pitches, and reached as high as 96 mph on the radar gun.
After struggling with an ERA over 5.00 early this season, Valverde hopes to return to last season's form, when he showed he was one of the best closers in the game.
Since joining Detroit in 2010, Valverde has converted 82 of his 87 save opportunities, a success rate of more than 94 percent.
Despite throwing more than 20 pitches in his inning of work, Leyland was not counting out Valverde's availability for Saturday's game with the Twins.
"He will be fine, he should be fine. If we need him, he can pitch for sure," Leyland said.