Jim Leyland leaning toward Joaquin Benoit for save chances

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With Jose Valverde showing exactly why he failed to attract much interest over the winter, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is seemingly phasing him out of the closer role.

According to Jason Beck and Bobby Nightengale of MLB.com, Leyland said today that while he isn’t ready to make an official announcement on his closer situation, he’s prepared to go with Joaquin Benoit in the short-term.

“I’m not naming anybody closer,” Leyland said Thursday. “I’m just saying that if Benoit’s available right now, I would probably try to close with him, if he’s fresh and available.”

Valverde allowed just one run over his first 12 appearances this season, but he has been touched up for 11 runs on 15 hits (including five home runs) over his last eight appearances. This includes four runs in a non-save situation yesterday against the Orioles. Benoit notched a save during Sunday’s game, which was an indication that a change could be in the offing.

As for Valverde, Leyland said he’ll use him when he sees fit and “will try to do that intelligently.” That could mean never.

Interestingly, Valverde’s contract includes a $500,000 bonus if he reaches 25 games finished, with an additional $500,000 bonus for every five games finished after that. He’s currently sitting on 18 games finished for the year. If the Tigers truly think he’s cooked as a late-game option, it wouldn’t be surprising if they cut bait soon.

Ichiro wore a fake mustache to sneak into the Mariners’ dugout

Associated Press
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Ichiro Suzuki is now a Mariners employee and, as such, he’s not allowed to sit in the dugout during a game. That’s for coaches and players only.

He knows that, too. Indeed, on the day Ichiro announced his sorta-retirement, he talked about how it was going to be hard not to be down on the field with the other players. He even made a ridiculous joke about how, “[he] can’t say for certain that maybe [he] won’t put on a beard and glasses and be like Bobby Valentine and be in the dugout.”

In related news, this mysterious stranger was seen by an Associated Press photographer in the Mariners dugout during the first couple of innings of the M’s-Yankees game:

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

No beard, but I guess that joke was not very ridiculous after all. Either way, by the end of the second inning — poof — he was gone.

Obviously, when something interesting like this happens you mustache an expert for their opinion on the matter. To that end, the Associated Press reached Bobby Valentine, who famously did the same thing after an ejection way back in 1999, for comment:

“He was perfect. I never would have known it was him.”

Valentine was suspended for two games and fined $5,000. I’m assuming Ichiro won’t get hit quite as hard given that he wasn’t defying an umpire’s authority, but even if he does have to pay a fine, he’ll likely do so willingly.