For him to do it Saturday might well have been a godsend for the Tigers.
The primary goal behind the Tigers working out the next few days, the reason they brought up a bunch of Minor League players from their Florida instructional league to face the big leaguers Sunday and Monday, was to keep hitters and pitchers fresh. There was a little more riding on Valverde's 20 pitches when he took the mound Saturday against some of his teammates in a simulated game.
Though the hitters weren't swinging against him, it nonetheless counted as his first action against actual hitting since his ninth-inning collapse in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series a week earlier at Yankee Stadium. His only pitching since then has been side sessions working on his mechanics with pitching coach Jeff Jones.
When asked how many changes he made, Valverde said, "A lot. I open too much [in the delivery]. I do too much stuff with my hands. That's what I've been working on the last couple days with Jonesy, and now it's over."
As difficult as it can be to tell from a simulated game how a pitcher will react in a real one, Valverde did not look wild. The right-hander said he felt different than he did the previous couple outings.
"It's a lot different," Valverde said, "because I do exactly what I have to do. I make the adjustment."
Valverde said he'll throw 20 pitches again Sunday in a scheduled scrimmage against the Minor Leaguers.
"I think Jonesy and him worked it out pretty good," manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm not one who likes to, every time somebody doesn't do good, find a reason to blame it on something. I'm not one of those people. The fact of the matter is you've got to get guys out."
Asked what he thinks he might be the difference, Leyland said, "Last year on a consistent basis, he stayed out of the middle of the plate, and this year he has not done that as well. I mean, that's a fact. I don't blame everything on mechanics or blame everything on somebody didn't like the mound, and neither does he. He makes no excuses."
What he needs to do to regain Leyland's favor is record outs. And as Leyland talked about continuing to play his closing situation according to matchups, one could sense him setting up the scenario that would see Valverde back in the ninth inning soon, especially if the Cardinals are the opponent.
"Everybody now has Phil Coke as the closer, and the greatest closer since Post Toasties," said Leyland. "Well, he's done a great job, but we're going to see a lot of right-handed hitters if we play one team, and he has not had a lot of success with right-handers until just recently. I'm not taking anything away from Phil Coke. He's been fantastic."