|Born: March 24, 1978|
San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic
|June 1, 2003, for the Arizona Diamondbacks|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 26, 2014, for the New York Mets|
|Earned run average||3.27|
|Career highlights and awards|
José Rafael Valverde (born March 24, 1978) is a Dominican professional baseball pitcher who is a free agent. He has played 12 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, and New York Mets. He is nicknamed "Papa Grande."
Valverde made his Major League Baseball debut in 2003 to help out when Arizona Diamondbacks closer Matt Mantei was injured. He was named the National League Player of the Week on June 23, 2003. For the season, he finished with 10 saves in 54 appearances. His ERA finished at 2.15 with 71 strikeouts in 50.1 innings pitched.
Injured for most of the 2004 season, Valverde only managed to appear in 29 games.
Valverde had some troubles in June 2006, and management sent him to the Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate, the Tucson Sidewinders. He returned to the closer role in early September and pitched well in his return. Valverde finished the 2006 season with a record of two wins, three losses, an ERA of 5.84 and 18 saves.
On June 23, 2007, Valverde passed Matt Mantei as the Diamondbacks all-time saves leader, with his 75th, a perfect ninth against the Baltimore Orioles. Valverde made the 2007 MLB All-Star Game as a closer for Arizona. Until he was traded during the 2007 offseason, Valverde was the Diamondbacks closer, and led all of Major League Baseball in saves (47) during the 2007 regular season.
On September 25, 2007, Valverde was named as one of 10 finalists for the DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award.
He finished his first year in Houston with 44 saves in 51 chances, a 6-4 record, 83 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.38. He led the NL in saves for the second straight year and was second in the majors in saves for 2008. When Valverde entered into the game, his walk up song was "Ladies and Gentlemen", by the band Saliva.
In 2009, Valverde saved just 25 games as he was hampered by an injury throughout the season. Following the 2009 season, Valverde filed for free agency, rejecting the Astros' offer of salary arbitration.
On January 19, 2010, Valverde signed a two-year, $14 million contract, with a third year team option for $9 million with the Detroit Tigers. Through the first half of the season he had an ERA of 0.94 and had scoreless streak of 24 innings, which is longest in Tigers history passing Todd Jones who previously held the record at 22 innings in 2000.
Valverde represented the Tigers at the 2010 All-Star Game along with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. Following the All-Star break, he suffered some nagging injuries[quantify], finishing the year with 26 saves and a 3.00 ERA.
On May 8, 2011, Valverde recorded his 200th career save. Valverde was elected to his third All-Star Game, and American League manager Ron Washington selected Valverde to serve as the team's closer.
On September 11, 2011, Valverde recorded his 43rd save of the season, passing Todd Jones as the Tigers' single-season saves leader. His 45th save of the season on September 16 secured the AL Central Division title for the Tigers. On the final day of the regular season he recorded his 49th straight save, completing his perfect regular season. It was his 51st consecutive save opportunity converted since 2010. He won the 2011 MLB Delivery Man of the Year Award and the American League Rolaids Relief Man Award as the most outstanding relief pitcher of the regular season. In 2011, he led AL pitchers in saves, games (75), and games finished (70). Through 2011, he was sixth among all active pitchers in career saves (242).
On October 28, 2011 the Tigers picked up the 2012 club option on Valverde's contract. On opening day, his consecutive save streak ended after blowing a 2-0 lead versus the Boston Red Sox, although he earned the win after the Tigers won, 3-2.
On October 10, 2012, Valverde blew a save against the Oakland Athletics in Game 4 of the 2012 ALDS. The Tigers held a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth when Valverde entered the game. He gave up three consecutive hits before recording an out in a game the A's eventually won, 4-3.
On October 13, 2012, Valverde blew a 4-0 lead against the New York Yankees in the bottom of the ninth in Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS by allowing a pair of two-run home runs, one by Ichiro Suzuki and the other by Raúl Ibañez. Although the Tigers won 6-4 in twelve innings,Phil Coke replaced Valverde as the Tigers' closer for the remainder of the postseason.
On October 30, 2012, Valverde became a free agent.
On April 4, 2013, The Tigers signed Valverde to a minor league contract. He pitched in 3 games in Class-A for the Lakeland Flying Tigers. On April 23, the Tigers called him up to the Majors, which necessitated signing him to a new Major League contract. He recorded a save in his first game back with the Tigers on April 24.
Valverde played his last game with the Tigers on June 19, 2013, giving up 4 earned runs in 10 pitches against the Baltimore Orioles.
Valverde was designated for assignment on June 21, 2013. After clearing waivers, Valverde was outrighted from the 40-man roster and accepted the assignment to the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. Valverde was released on August 7, 2013.
After saving 75 games in his first 78 save opportunities with the Tigers, Valverde was 44 for 52 over his last two seasons with the team. Despite fans souring on him in late 2012 and into 2013, he left the Tigers having established the best save conversion percentage (119-for-130, 91.5%) of any closer in team history.
On May 26, 2014, Valverde allowed 4 earned runs, blowing a 2-1 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates and earning his first loss of the season. Immediately after the game ended, Valverde was released by the Mets.
On April 29, 2015, Valverde signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. On July 22, 2015, Valverde was released by the Nationals. He recorded 10 saves with the Syracuse Chiefs, the AAA affiliate of the Nationals. On August 14, 2015, Valverde was suspended 80 games for a violation of the MLB drug policy, having tested positive for stanozolol.
On April 10, 2017, Valverde signed with the Rieleros de Aguascalientes of the Mexican Baseball League. He was released on February 9, 2018. He re-signed with the Rieleros on January 25, 2019, after spending 2018 out of the league due to injuries. Valverde was later released again on July 11, 2019.
Valverde throws just two pitches, a four-seam fastball (93-96 mph) and a forkball (84-87). He throws a slightly higher percentage of forkballs to left-handed hitters. He is comfortable using the pitch in almost all counts, although he throws it most often when it is 0-2 or 1-2. Valverde's control is sometimes spotty, as he has an above average career rate of 3.9 walks per nine innings. This balances a dominating 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings ratio.
Valverde is also known for his energetic, highly emotional style on the mound. He frequently celebrates outs and saves very demonstratively. Some have questioned the sportsmanship of his behavior, including former teammate Miguel Montero of the Arizona Diamondbacks who has called him "unprofessional".