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Published: Thursday, 7/4/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Minor work needed for Valverde

Detroit reliever joins Hens to improve split-finger

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jose Valverde, right, and Argenis Diaz watch the game on Wednesday. The 35-year-old Valverde joined the Hens on Monday and hopes to improve enough to get called back up to the Tigers. Jose Valverde, right, and Argenis Diaz watch the game on Wednesday. The 35-year-old Valverde joined the Hens on Monday and hopes to improve enough to get called back up to the Tigers.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

Jose Valverde has started to experience life in the minor leagues — well, sort of.

When the Mud Hens rode a bus home from Lehigh Valley after Tuesday night’s game, the veteran reliever wasn’t on it.

“Eight hours [on a bus] is too much,” Valverde said. “I have something in the bank for a flight.”

Outside of not spending time on a bus, Valverde is a Mud Hens reliever now. Valverde was designated for assignment by Detroit on June 21 after posting a 5.59 ERA and converting 9 of 12 save opportunities.

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The 35-year-old Valverde joined the Mud Hens on July 1. He hasn’t pitched for the Hens, who played Columbus at Fifth Third Field on Wednesday night, but he remains in good spirits.

“I think this will be good for me,” Valverde said. “I’m going to work out here with a lot of young kids, and I think that will be good for me. I will support this team and work my way back up.”

Valverde said his primary goal with Toledo is to work on his split-finger fastball.

“My sinker is good and my four-seam [fastball] are good,” he said. “My split-finger is not going exactly where I want it to.”

Mud Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager saw Valverde throw a side session Monday, and also has talked to Detroit pitching coach Jeff Jones about what the 6-foot-4, 255-pound native of the Dominican Republic will focus on.

“The big thing is to get him some regular work,” Sager said. “Helping him improve on his split-finger is job one.

“But the ball seems to be coming out of his hand really well.”

Toledo manager Phil Nevin said Valverde will be used in different situations.

“Like the other eight guys out there [in the bullpen], if he tells me he’s ready to pitch, I’ll pick the best spot that day [to use him],” Nevin said. “You will see him close some games.”

Valverde made no excuses for his struggles in Detroit, although he said signing late in the spring didn’t help.

“When you don’t have spring training, it’s different,” he said. “So this could be spring training. I hope I’ll be here only two or three weeks.”

Valverde said the reason he accepted the opportunity to pitch in Toledo was because he still wants to pitch.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you have. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you want to keep on playing baseball,” he said.

He said he holds no ill feelings towards the Tigers for sending him to the minors.

“That’s baseball — there’s nothing you can do,” Valverde said. “It’s not the big leagues, but I’m working hard to get back up to Detroit again.

“I will be back soon.”

TWO STARS: Two Mud Hens, outfielder Nick Castellanos and first baseman Jordan Lennerton, have been selected to represent the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game.

Castellanos was one of three outfielder elected to start in the contest. Elected players were chosen in balloting of fans, media, and club personnel.

Lennerton is one of 17 other players selected by the IL to represent the league in the contest, which will be played at Aces Ballpark in Reno, Nev., on July 17, starting at 9 p.m.

The game will be televised on MLB Network.

REHABBING TIGER: Matt Tuiasosopo joined the Mud Hens on Wednesday to begin a rehab assignment.

Tuiasosopo was placed on the Tigers’ disabled list retroactive to June 20 because of a left intercostal strain.

Tuiasosopo served as the Hens’ DH and will start in left field today.

If all goes well, Tuiasosopo is eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.



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