"Doubtful." – Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski
"Not in the picture." – Tigers manager Jim Leyland
"They haven't for a moment considered signing him." – Detroit News columnist Lynn Henning
As you might have guessed, those three statements were made over the offseason in regards to the possibility of the Tigers bringing back embattled closer Jose Valverde. Of course, the Tigers eventually did re-sign Valverde earlier this month, and on Tuesday they purchased his contract from the minors and named him their closer.
"One thing you know about him," said Leyland in the Detroit News, "he's done it before and he's not afraid. We know that. Those are two things we know."
Joaquin Benoit was doing fine since Leyland gave him a half-hearted endorsement as the club’s closer, but it’s been clear for a while that the manager never really had full confidence in him or any other current member of the pen as the team’s ninth-inning man. Familiarity with Valverde won out despite a 2012 season that saw him post a 3.78 ERA before fumbling away the closer job in the postseason.
For what it’s worth, Papa Grande reportedly looked great in extended spring training and in his three appearances with High-A Lakeland. The Detroit News’ Tony Paul wrote that the club moved up the planned date for his promotion because reports “across the board” were “so glowing.” The Tigers are hoping that he has rediscovered his splitter after it abandoned him last season. If the pitch is back, it’s possible Valverde will be a serviceable closer for fantasy owners.
Tommy John Surgery for Billingsley
Tommy John has claimed another victim.
Chad Billingsley was diagnosed last summer with a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, but he and the club decided to treat the injury with rest and platelet-rich plasma injections. It looked for a while like it might work, but the ligament finally snapped, so season-ending surgery will be required. He’ll likely miss the beginning of the 2014 campaign, as well.
The Dodgers had a bevy of rotation options heading into spring training, but many of them have fallen by the wayside. In addition to Billingsley, Zack Greinke and Chris Capuano are on the disabled list, and Ted Lilly will return from the DL on Wednesday to make his season debut. They also traded Aaron Harang earlier this month.
Lilly should be fine as long as his health holds up, but Stephen Fife is stretched now as the No. 5 starter. The good news for the Dodgers is that Capuano should be back soon. The left-hander is ready to throw off a mound again and could be ready to rejoin on the rotation on or around May 2, the first day he’s eligible.
Waino Showing Cy Young Form
The Cardinals locked up Adam Wainwright with a five-year, $97.5 million contract extension just before Opening Day, and the early returns from the 2013 season suggest it will wind up being a shrewd move.
Wainwright on Tuesday fell just two outs shy of his second shutout in five tries, dominating the Nationals for 8 1/3 frames with only five hits allowed, one walk and nine strikeouts. The walk was his first of the season, as he went 34 2/3 frames before issuing a free pass. He now has a 4-1 record, 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 37/1 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings.
The tall right-hander had an up-and-down 2012 campaign in his first year following Tommy John surgery, but he looks all the way back now. Wainwright finished third in the National League Cy Young voting in 2009 and second in 2010. He’s looking like a good bet for another top-five finish in 2013.
National League Quick Hits: Giancarlo Stanton had two hits and two RBI in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader vs. the Twins. He’s batting just .200 for the season ... Jon Niese is expected to be fine for his next start after taking a liner off his leg Tuesday ... After Carlos Marmol blew a save in the ninth against the Reds Tuesday, Kevin Gregg recorded a save in the 10th. He’s probably worth adding in deeper leagues ... Matt Garza (lat) was scratched from Wednesday’s rehab outing with a “dead arm.” He’s expected to resume throwing from a mound later this week, but this will push back his mid-May timetable ... Tony Cingrani whiffed nine over seven innings of two-run ball Tuesday versus the Cubs ... Edward Mujica collected his third save of the season in Tuesday’s win over the Nationals ... Kyle Lohse (finger) remains optimistic about making his next scheduled start on Sunday ... Brandon Belt was benched for a second straight game Tuesday against the D'Backs, but he came through with a pinch-hit, game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth ... Jhoulys Chacin (back) expects to be activated from the disabled list when first eligible on May 5 ... Justin Upton homered in both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Rockies, giving him a major league-leading 11 bombs for the season ...
American League Quick Hits: Dylan Bundy will have his sore right elbow and forearm examined this week by Dr. James Andrews. The Orioles don’t seem concerned at this point that he’ll need Tommy John surgery, but it certainly can’t be ruled out ... Justin Maxwell has landed on the disabled list with a fractured hand. He’ll be replaced on the roster by Robbie Grossman ... R.A. Dickey admitted after struggling in Tuesday’s start that he’s still bothered by pain in his neck and upper back. At this point, though, it doesn’t appear that he’ll miss a turn ... Bartolo Colon tossed seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox Tuesday and now boasts a 2.42 ERA and 0.92 WHIP for the season ... Erick Aybar (heel) will not be ready to be activated from the disabled list on Thursday as expected but should be back in the Angels’ lineup early next week ... Oswaldo Arcia hit his first major league home run Tuesday against the Marlins ... Franklin Gutierrez has been placed on the DL and will require an MRI on his ailing right hamstring ... John Lackey (biceps) is expected to return from the disabled list to start Sunday against the Astros ... Kevin Youkilis (back) will be held out until at least Thursday ...