Without his patented goggles but sporting a new windup and two-toned goatee, veteran right-hander Jose Valverde converted his first save of the 2013 season on Wednesday night as the Tigers defeated the Royals 7-5 at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
It was his first appearance since being promoted late Tuesday to the major leagues and he retired all three batters he faced — Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler — in order, throwing 18 pitches.
Valverde looked awful in last year’s postseason and couldn’t find a job this winter, but the Tigers decided in early April to bring him back on a minor league contract. He showed decent movement and velocity on Wednesday night against the Royals, even hitting 95 mph with his fastball at one point.
Joaquin Benoit has been shifted back to a setup role. He went 1 1/3 scoreless frames Wednesday.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.