Valverde plays catch, nearing return

Valverde plays catch, nearing return

Valverde plays catch, nearing return
PITTSBURGH -- Tigers fans hoping to see an appearance from closer Jose Valverde will likely have to wait at least until the team heads to Texas on Monday.

Even if Valverde is available to pitch Sunday, manager Jim Leyland said he would probably insert Joaquin Benoit in the closer role, assuming Detroit finds itself in that situation.

"The word I got yesterday was that the fastball seemed pretty good," Leyland said about Valverde, who played catch Saturday, four days after spraining his right wrist. "Still a little feeling on the split."

Assuming Valverde is ready to go, Leyland said he would consider using the right-hander in a less stressful role than he's used to. Still, an outing against the Pirates seems unlikely.

"I won't take any chances if it's not right," Leyland said. "I'm assuming tomorrow is going to be the day for him."

Octavio Dotel, who threw two innings against the Pirates on Saturday, was not available to pitch Sunday. In addition to Benoit, other available relievers included Luis Marte, Phil Coke and Duane Below.

Leyland said the status of Brayan Villarreal is uncertain.

"We're a little short, but we've got the big guy," Leyland said, referring to Sunday starter Justin Verlander. "Hopefully, he'll step up."