DETROIT -- Jose Valverde elicits emotions on both sides whenever he passes through the bullpen doorway, let alone finally pitches. For him to take the mound to near-total silence is a journey to the bizarre.
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."
Young to play left field during Game 1 of Fall Classic
DETROIT -- The last time the Tigers played without the designated hitter spot, Delmon Young was a hitter going through a power outage at the plate. Manager Jim Leyland started him in left field during every Interleague road game, trying to get his bat sparked at the plate. In fairness, though, they were short an outfielder with Andy Dirks on the disabled list.
The Tigers are at full strength now, with no shortage of outfielders, but Young is also at full production. If there was any question what Leyland was going to do with Young when they open the World Series without the DH, Leyland answered it Saturday.
"The plan right now is to play him in left field for the first game," Leyland said. "I think it's pretty hard to [sit him], the way he's been swinging the bat. He's the MVP of the American League Championship Series, and swinging the bat as well as he is, it would be pretty hard not to play him."
Young went 6-for-17 (.353) in the ALCS with two home runs and six RBIs. He drove in the winning run in all four games.
His presence in left will leave Leyland with a decision to make in right field between left-handed hitters Dirks and Quintin Berry against right-handed starters. Against lefties, Leyland could stick with right-handed-hitting rookie Avisail Garcia or the lefty-hitting Dirks.
The Cardinals do not have a left-hander in their rotation. The Giants have two lefty starters with Barry Zito, who pitched a gem in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, and Madison Bumgarner.
Tigers unlikely to change roster for World Series
DETROIT -- The Tigers have until Wednesday morning to make any changes in their postseason roster, and they might not know their opponent until late Monday night. At this point, though, manager Jim Leyland expects they'll stick with the roster as is.
"As we speak right now, I don't think [there'll be any changes]," Leyland said, "but that's not to say that something could not come up that would make a change. I don't foresee it."
One potential change that team officials discussed Saturday, Leyland said, was whether to add another pitcher to its bullpen.
"I think, as we speak right now, we're going to stay with 11 pitchers," Leyland said. "I think that's the way it's going to be. And I foresee, at this point, no changes on the roster. But there's quite a bit of time left."
Leyland suffered gash during ALCS celebration
DETROIT -- Leave it to Phil Coke, in his finest hour, to still be a headache for Jim Leyland.
OK, headache might be an exaggeration. Nonetheless, there's a big scar on the top of Leyland's head that wasn't there before the Tigers punched their ticket to the World Series.
"I'm OK," Leyland said. "It was just Phil Coke pouring champagne."
How it happened takes some explanation. Fortunately, Leyland obliged.
"I usually don't go out in those celebrations," Leyland said, "but they got me, and I was freezing, so I jumped up. Well, as Phil Coke would do, he kept dousing [me with] the thing. Well, as he poured the bottle out, I jumped up and he hit my bald spot in the back, split my head open. Fortunately, it was just this big scab. He didn't slice it open. I didn't need stitches or anything."
Leyland tried to make light of it as best he could.
"After a couple more vodka and cranberries, I didn't feel anything," he joked.
Lopez loves what Tigers represent
DETROIT -- The Tigers had a few celebrity sightings during their run through the American League playoffs, but to this point, Michigan natives Jeff Daniels and Tom Selleck stand out as their most recognizable fans from Hollywood.
So when George Lopez walked onto the field during the Tigers' workout Saturday, it was unusual. For one thing, the workouts aren't open to the public. As a friend of manager Jim Leyland's good friend Tony La Russa, however, Lopez was an invited guest.
Lopez was in town for a show Saturday night across the street at the Fox Theatre. The way he traded laughs with Miguel Cabrera, it looked like he was trying out material.
"I told him that a Latino winning the Triple Crown is as impressive as having a black president," Lopez said later, "and he started laughing. Great guy. Great sense of humor."
Lopez's southern California roots make him a Dodgers fan, enough that he has to root against the Giants -- or at least root for them to lose in the World Series. However, he has long followed the Tigers and loves what they represent.
"I've been a baseball fan my whole life, and in the old Tiger Stadium, it was amazing. I remember watching the All-Star Game when I was a little kid. And then, one of the few Latino players at that time, Aurelio Lopez, was at third. We loved him. And in '84, when they came to play the Angels, we went as much as we could.
"It's a great blue-collar town. It deserves this. You can't predict, but it would be wonderful for this town and for baseball if the Tigers win the World Series."