Thursday, April 25, 2013
Firsthand Account of Valverde's Return
Well, I've said all along bringing Valverde back was the smart thing to do. I'm kidding, of course. I was at the game last night, though, and I know it's been said but it really was like he was never gone.
Before the eighth inning, I realized the 7-5 score meant we'd see Valverde if nothing changed. I told my wife neither team was going to score because of course we were going to see Valverde's first appearance in our first trip to Comerica of the season. Once the Royals came up to bat, I looked out to the bullpen and yup, there was Valverde starting his warmups.
It created a strange internal debate. Do you want the Tigers to score a couple runs to have the bigger, safer lead? Or do you want them to keep it a save situation because of Valverde's weird brand of save situation mojo? Well, if they score a couple runs they might not bring in Valverde at all, right? Nope, nobody else is warming up. Valverde is coming in for sure. It was basically the Valverde debate from the past month wrapped up in one bullpen session.
Once both teams predictably failed to score in the eighth - nice four out appearance by Benoit, by the way - the buzz started. More and more people started to realize this was going to happen. Once people heard the murmur, more started looking to the bullpen. I wondered to myself what percentage of the crowd didn't even realize anything was notable. "What's the big deal? It's Valverde in the ninth, just like always."
After Valverde threw his last bullpen pitch and started walking to the gate, the cheering started. The crowd was pretty scant by that point because of the long game and the biting cold, but people had crowded around the bullpen and were cheering avidly. When Valverde walked through the gate, it was the most excitement the crowd showed the entire game. And yes, the vast majority of the crowd was cheering. I only heard one dude booing and as wise as his trepidation may prove to be, it made him seem like a douche.
As I clapped my gloved hands, I turned to my wife and said, "I don't like it, but he is a Tiger." The Tigers tried to ease our fears by putting together a Valverde montage for the scoreboard, but as soon as the excitement died down and he was just warming up the mood turned to "Oh God, what's going to happen?" A lot of the jokes I imagine were on Twitter ran through my mind. "What's everybody so worried about? This guy hasn't even given up a baserunner and it's almost the end of April!"
Alex Gordon came to the plate and the first pitch was a ball. As Ernie would say, the paying umpires thought it was a strike... and booed. A guy behind me, perhaps misreading the reason for the boos wondered twice, "How quick are they going to turn on him?" When Gordon finally put the ball in play, off the bat it looked like the answer might be "very quickly". My eyes quickly went to Dirks to judge the damage, and I was relieved to see him preparing for a catch. Who knows? Maybe this will all work out after all. I keep saying it. Bullpens will make you crazy.