The Tigers grand bullpen experiment — which really isn’t a closer-by-committee thing — will apparently not last indefinitely:
Valverde will not join the big club immediately, Reusse reports. He’ll presumably go to Lakeland to throw some and then, eventually, find his way to Toledo. And if the Phil Coke/Joaquin Benoit follies continue, Papa Grande — who saved 35 games last year but proved unreliable down the stretch and ultimately lost his job in the playoffs — will be dancing his way across a diamond near you soon.
But the Tigers need to act on him soon: his contract has an opt-out clause dated May 5. Meaning if Valverde is not on the big club by then, he becomes a free agent again.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: