The former closer, who was not offered a contract after his postseason meltdown last year, returned to the team and got a save for the Tigers.

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DETROIT — Jose Valverde wasn’t supposed to come back.

After his postseason meltdowns against Oakland and the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers didn’t even offer him a contract at the end of last season. Flame-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon looked set to be the new closer.

It didn’t quite work out that way. And now Valverde is back.

And he went right to work Wednesday night, getting the final three outs for a save in the Tigers’ 7-5 victory over Kansas City.

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After Rondon failed to win the job in spring training and the Tigers’ closer-by-committee plan didn’t work, general manager Dave Dombrowski decided Valverde wasn’t such a bad option. Detroit signed him to a minor-league deal. And after only a couple of extended spring-training games and three innings in Class A ball, “The Great Potato” was ready to close again.

“I’m surprised at how quickly this has gone,” Dombrowski said. “He’s throwing 95 consistently, he’s hitting 97 and his splitter is back. He looks like the pitcher we had two years ago.”

Valverde showed up on Wednesday 15 pounds lighter, sporting a two-toned beard and having ditched his trademark glasses.

“I’m excited to be back,” he said. “I’m back in Detroit with all my friends.”

Rays, penguins chill

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Rays manager Joe Maddon brought a pair of penguins, Cliff and Shelly, to the clubhouse before Tampa Bay’s game against the Yankees.

“It’s a continuation of our attempt to get our players to chill out a bit,” Maddon said.

Earlier this week, he brought a cockatoo to the clubhouse, and last weekend he had a DJ play music and a magician do card tricks.


Jon Lester’s 89th win for the Red Sox matched Babe Ruth for fifth place in club history among left-handers.

• The Orioles’ string of 17 extra-inning wins was snapped by Toronto. It was the majors’ longest streak since Pittsburgh won 21 straight in 1959-60.

• Rays 3B Evan Longoria went 0 for 4, stopping his streak of reaching base safely in 34 games dating to last season.

• Colorado’s comeback win denied Atlanta RHP Tim Hudson his 200th career win. It was 48 degrees in Denver, more than double Tuesday’s 23 degrees at first pitch.

• Players will parade past Grand Central Terminal on a massive red carpet as part of the festivities for the All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York on July 16. The Mets last hosted the game in 1964 in Shea Stadium.

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