Jim Leyland on Tigers’ closer situation: “Just going to play it by ear, see what happens”

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After pitching in a simulated game over the weekend Jose Valverde told reporters that he corrected a mechanical flaw responsible for his postseason struggles, but when asked if Valverde will resume closing in the World Series manager Jim Leyland was non-committal.

Leyland used the same phrasing he repeatedly uttered during the ALCS, saying the Tigers are “just going to play it by ear, see what happens” in the ninth inning, leading Jason Beck of MLB.com to conclude that it will be closer-by-committee based on matchups.

Left-hander Phil Coke emerged as the Tigers’ closer during the ALCS, finishing the final three games of the series, but the Yankees’ lineup being filled with left-handed hitters played a big role in that and the only lefty bats in the Giants’ lineup are Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, and Brandon Crawford.

In other words, if Leyland truly manages the ninth inning based on matchups Coke is unlikely to be the top choice. If instead Leyland has completely soured on Valverde and now trusts Coke to get the final three outs the Giants’ right-handed hitters will have some favorable matchups with the game on the line late. Righties hit .396 off Coke during the regular season, so even if Valverde remains out of the mix–he hasn’t pitched since October 13–Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel could play a big role.

Indians sign Melvin Upton Jr. to a minor league deal

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The Cleveland Indians have agreed to a minor league deal with outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr.

Upton, 33, battled a torn thumb ligament and a shoulder issue last season, limiting him to only 12 games with Triple-A Sacramento, the Giants’ affiliate. In those 12 games, he hit .244 with one double and one home run. Upton last played in the majors in 2016 with the Padres and Blue Jays with which he posted an aggregate .693 OPS.

Given the injuries suffered by Indians outfielders in the past couple of seasons it can’t hurt to have some options for organizational depth. If he has anything left in the tank, stash him on the bench or down in Columbus. If not, no harm done.