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9.10.2007

Last, But Certainly Not Least

chest-poundSuperstitious, charismatic and all-out boisterous are just three of the adjectives used to describe Arizona Diamondbacks closer and big league saves-leader, Jose Valverde.

I prefer to call him jolly, but he prefers "Big Papa." The 6'4", 254-pound righty is generally a pretty quiet guy off the field; it's the minute he busts out of the bullpen that his true colors shine.

He doesn't like it when people talk to him during the game -- this is the time he reserves for "getting [himself] ready inside." Every now and then, from about the fifth inning on, he'll stand up and swing his arms loose, in anticipation of a save situation.

fist-pumpThen, it's time. He heads to the mound and immediately acts on his first superstition, tossing the ball to the home plate ump and asking for a new one.

He pops some gum in his mouth -- this move is especially impertinent -- and chucks it toward the middle infield once he's done warming up. Then, he makes some sort of crazy hand gesture in the direction of second baseman Orlando Hudson, who replies the same. Why? No one knows... not even Valverde or Hudson.

Are we ready yet? Not quite. Rather than touch the rosin bag (God forbid, the previous pitcher has already touched it!) he grabs some dirt from the mound and rubs it into his upper thigh.

pointing to Baby JesusWith every out, the giant finisher pumps his fist and/or belts outs a "Hell yeah!" at the top of his lungs, which seems to aggravate opposing batters. That means it's working.

Once he's saved the day, Valverde leaps into the air and pounds his chest like a wild animal in the Congo. It's awesome.

Back in May, he hoped he would reach 50 saves this season, and he's just about gotten his wish. Valverde (1-4, 2.83 ERA) has converted 45 of 52 save opportunities with 18 games left to play in the Baby Backs' season, doing it again last night against the St. Louis Cardinals.

He's struck out 72 over 60 innings, walking 24 with just 19 earned runs. He's eclipsed the club's all-time saves leader, Matt Mantei (74) already and has had a large hand in the Diamondbacks' quest to be the become the Best in the NL West, with a 3-game lead over the stumbling San Diego Padres.

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3 Comments:

Suss said...

Their shoulder "db" logo is still disturbingly vaginal in nature.