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(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - The Detroit Tigers have signed former closer Jose Valverde to a minor league contract, according to Fox Sports Detroit analyst Mario Impemba.
Valverde lost his job late last season and hasn't been able to latch on with a new team via free agency.
The Tigers entered this season with a "closer-by-committee" plan. Phil Coke blew a save at Minnesota on Wednesday.
"There are no major league commitments to the deal," general manager Dave Dombrowski said today. "He is going to join our club in Lakeland -- our extended (spring training) program -- and throw to some hitters, then ... join our Toledo affiliate. There is no specific time frame on that. But he's been throwing 40 to 60 pitches, bullpenwise, over the last time period.
"So in talking to (agent) Scott Boras, he said he's ready to go and face some hitters. So we figured we would sign him. Scott has talked to me extensively through the last few months. We were willing to take a look at him and see what happens."
When did the deal come together?
"Within an hour," Dombrowski said. "Actually, (Boras) sent me a text in the middle of last night. I didn't respond to it because I was sleeping. But I will say it's not the first time we've corresponded. He's talked to me many times about this situation.
"We actually had somebody take a look at Papa Grande last (Saturday). One of our scouts in the Dominican went and looked at him. He threw on the side. Velocity was solid. He threw some splits. But we figured, at this point, it was a situation where we had nothing to lose, and he's open-minded ... at this time.
"He was in the low to touching mid-90s. He had thrown some splits on a much more consistent basis. There is no question he has lost more weight, but that really was not a concern of ours last year, because we thought he was in decent shape. But he has lost another 15 points, they say. Our guys verified he was in very good shape."
Where could this lead?
"Well, he could come back and pitch for our big-league club," Dombrowski said. "We're not signing him just as a favor. The arrangement is we would have the opportunity to add him to our big-league club if we felt it was merited."
Valverde can opt out of the minor league deal if the Tigers haven't called him up in one month (by May 5).
"We're not looking to drag this out for an extended period. It would be more a matter of him throwing to a couple of hitters in an extended program -- a couple of times probably -- if we needed a game in Lakeland, he could do that. And then we would send him to Toledo and take a look at him there."
As for how Valverde and Rondon will coexist in the Toledo bullpen, Dombrowski said, "I haven't even thought of that."
Detroit Free Press