Former closer Jose Valverde happy just to contribute
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Although he's accumulated 286 major-league saves and led the league in that category for three different teams, righthander Jose Valverde has no delusions about his probable role for the 2014 Mets.
Valverde said Sunday that his priority is to win, not necessarily continue his march toward 300 saves. That's a positive mind-set, given that manager Terry Collins projects Bobby Parnell to be his closer, provided he is healthy.
"I'm here because I want to support the team," Valverde said. "If one of the [other] guys is the closer, it's fine for me. I want to do my job."
Valverde, 35, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, said he has wanted to play for the Mets for a long time. He followed the team, particularly when countryman Pedro Martinez was in town, and appreciates that the club is trying to build with young players. "New York is awesome," he said. "I can go shopping whenever I want."
Valverde said he was close to coming to the Mets last year, when he appeared in 20 major-league games and saved nine of them for his most recent team, the Detroit Tigers. He said he's been working out in the Dominican Republic and attempting to regain the touch on his best pitch, the sinker.
The Tigers cut him loose after the 2012 postseason, which notably included his less-than-stellar performance in Game 1 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium. He blew a 4-0 ninth-inning lead, surrendering two-run homers to Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibañez.
Valverde, who led the NL with 47 saves for Arizona in 2007 and 44 for Houston in 2008, enjoyed his best season in 2011, setting a Tigers record with 49 saves and leading the AL with 75 appearances. But his ERA soared from 2.24 in 2011 to 3.78 in 2012. He was without a contract until late last season, when the Tigers sought bullpen help down the stretch.